Pandemic Timeline for Georgia & Columbia County

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February 28
Gov. Brian Kemp forms a task force to prevent the spread of coronavirus and respond to cases in the state. 

March 2
Kemp and state health officials confirm the first cases of coronavirus in Georgia after two people in Fulton County are found to have the virus after returning from a trip to Italy.

March 12
Kemp orders thousands of state employees to work from home.

The Board of Regents decides to close all 26 campuses of the University System of Georgia for two weeks and asks students to leave campus by 5 p.m. on March 13 and not return until March 29. Universities will be testing online teaching modules in case the rest of the semester is cancelled.

Kemp urges school systems and daycares to consider closing schools in coordination with local officials but stops short of mandating that they do so.

Georgia Department of Natural Resources officials remind residents that state parks and historic sites including campsites, cabins, hiking trails, picnic areas and golf courses are open for personal activity and exercise. However, park staff may temporarily limit access to ensure social distancing and protect the health of guests and employees.

March 13
President Donald Trump declares a national emergency due to the coronavirus.

The Georgia General Assembly suspends its session.

Augusta National Golf Club Chairman Fred Ridley announces that the Masters Tournament, the Augusta National Women’s Amateur and the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals will be postponed. 

March 14
Kemp declares Georgia’s first public health emergency, to last until April 13, and calls the General Assembly back into session to ratify his decision.

 March 15
Georgia’s Presidential Preference Primary, scheduled for March 24, is postponed until May 19 to coincide with the state and local primary elections. 

March 16
The Georgia General Assembly meets to endorse Kemp’s emergency declaration and to give him special executive powers to deal with the spread of the virus.

Columbia County closes venues and facilities including all libraries, the Senior Center, park restrooms and water features, and rental facilities. Public transit services are limited to essential and medical trips.

March 18
Columbia County closes county offices, parks and facilities through March 29. Online services are encouraged. No late fees for county services will be incurred and services will not be disconnected. Public safety and meal delivery services continue under normal guidelines.

Columbia County public schools close through April 3, and students are not expected to return until April 14 at the end of spring break.

March 23
Kemp issues an order requiring Georgians at high risk of contracting the virus to stay at home. The order also closes bars and nightclubs and prohibits gatherings of 10 or more people.

While employees of many nonessential businesses are working from home, Columbia County officials announce that they will not mandate the closure of any businesses at this time. However, they encourage companies to follow CDC guidelines.

March 24
To allow voters an option to cast ballots without going to polls during the pandemic, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announces that all active voters in the state will be mailed an application for an absentee ballot for the May 19 primaries. 

March 26
Kemp orders public schools to remain closed until April 24 and to relax requirements in several areas, including final exams. 

March 27
The Columbia County Board of Commissioners extends the closure of county offices, parks and facilities to April 6. 

The 2020 Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals at Augusta National Golf Club are rescheduled for April 4, 2021. The finalists will be invited to compete in the same age division for which they qualified this year, regardless of their age on that date.

March 29
Trump declares Georgia a major disaster area due to the impacts of the coronavirus on the state. 

April 1
Kemp announces that schools will be closed for the rest of the school year and that a shelter-in-place order mandating that Georgians stay home unless involved in essential business or for essential tasks, like grocery shopping, will be put in place April 3. 

April 2
Columbia County announces that county offices and facilities will remain closed to the public through April 13. However, open space and walking trails at county parks are open for personal activity and exercise. People are asked to continue to practice social distancing and refrain from congregating in large groups. 

April 3
The statewide shelter-in-place order goes into effect and will last until April 13. Many businesses are closed, while others are allowed to stay open for minimum business operations as long as they follow safety guidelines. Restaurants are allowed to serve only by pickup or drive-through and must close dining rooms. 

April 6
Ridley announces that the Masters Tournament has been rescheduled for November 9 – 15. The Augusta National Women’s Amateur is canceled, but players who were invited to the 2020 event will be able to compete in the 2021 tournament, as long as they remain amateurs. 

April 8
Kemp and Georgia’s top legislative leaders announce that the statewide public health emergency declared to deal with the coronavirus will be extended through May 13. Kemp also announces that he will extend the state’s shelter-in-place order through the rest of April. 

April 9
Raffensperger moves the May 19 state primaries to June 9. 

April 10
Columbia County announces that county offices and facilities will remain closed to the public through April 17. 

April 17
Columbia County announces that its offices and facilities will remain closed to the public through April 27. 

April 20
Kemp announces plans to ease restrictions on some businesses and medical procedures, allowing them to reopen or resume on April 24.

April 21
Columbia County announces that employees will return to work on April 27, but offices will remain closed to the public until May 4. 

April 24
Georgia begins Phase 1 of reopening businesses. Kemp permits barber shops, salons, bowling alleys, gyms and some other businesses to reopen as long as they take hygiene and social distancing precautions.

April 27
Columbia County employees return to work, but offices will remain closed to the public. 

April 30
Kemp announces he will allow the statewide shelter-in-place order to expire. He extends the state’s health emergency for another 30 days.

May 4
Columbia County offices reopen to the public with protocols in place to help employees and constituents follow CDC social distancing guidelines. County parks and the two recycling centers open on a larger scale. The Senior Center and libraries remain closed until further notice.

May 6
Columbia County reopens its athletic fields and tennis courts, as well as the BMX and Skate Park at Blanchard Woods Park, for leisure activities.

Columbia County libraries begin offering curbside pickup on a limited basis. All returned items will be quarantined for 72 hours.

May 8
Columbia County school students who have satisfactorily completed course requirements and who have met or exceeded course standards as measured by their teachers conclude the school year.

May 12
Kemp allows restaurants to serve 10 diners per 300 square feet instead of the current 500 square feet and increases the maximum number of people who can be seated together from six to 10.

Bars, nightclubs and live performance venues that expected to reopen May 13 are ordered to remain closed.

Shelter-in-place restrictions will remain in effect through June 12 for those 65 and older, the medically fragile and nursing home or long-term care facility residents.

May 14
The beach area and boat ramps at Wildwood Park are open. Camping reservations can be made as well.

May 16
All playgrounds at Columbia County parks open for public use. 

May 28
Kemp eases more restrictions while simultaneously extending the state’s public health state of emergency through July 12. Gathering size limit is increased from 10 to 25. Live performance venues remain closed, but bars and nightclubs are allowed to open under CDC guidelines.

May 29-30
Columbia County high schools hold graduation ceremonies at Evans Towne Center Park. Tickets are required for entry, and the number of tickets for each graduate is limited to four. Face masks are required to enter and exit the park, and attendees must bring their own seating. Social distancing of at least 6 feet is required between each group.

June 1 – July 8
The Columbia County school district provides curbside pickup summer meals for students in need on Mondays and Wednesdays at five locations.

June 2
Splash pads at Evans Towne Center and Gateway parks and behind the Evans Library open. The Evans and Harlem library branches open with limited hours and services.

June 9
After being postponed twice, Georgia’s primary election is held.

June 11
Kemp announces that Georgia residents 65 or older are no longer required to shelter in place unless they have underlying health conditions. He also eases other restrictions beginning June 16.

June 16
Gatherings of up to 50 people are allowed without social distancing. For larger groups, people must space out at least 6 feet apart.

In restaurants and dining rooms, there is no longer a cap on the number of people who can sit together. There also is no longer a limit on the number of patrons allowed per square foot, and buffets and salad bars can reopen with precautions.

Bars can allow in 50 people, or 35 percent of the total listed fire capacity, whichever is greater.

There no longer is a limit on the number of people who can sit together at indoor movie theaters, but each party must be seated at least 6 feet apart.

July 1
Live performance venues can reopen under certain conditions.