Gov. Brian Kemp announced Friday he is extending coronavirus-driven social distancing and sanitization restrictions for businesses, gatherings and long-term elderly care facilities in Georgia.

Kemp has signed an executive order, effective at midnight Nov. 16 and running through the end of the month, leaving the current set of restrictions in place.

“As COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations rise across the country, [Georgia Commissioner of Public Health] Dr. [Kathleen] Toomey and I are asking Georgians to remain vigilant in our fight against COVID-19,” the governor said.

“Continue to wash your hands, wear a mask, watch your distance, follow public health guidance, and get a flu shot. By taking these simple steps, we will protect lives – and livelihoods.”

A statewide public heath emergency first declared in Georgia last March allows Kemp to continue issuing executive orders addressing COVID-19.

The latest order keeps in place a ban on gatherings larger than 50 people in Georgia and continues to make wearing a mask voluntary at the statewide level rather than mandatory. Cities and counties have been allowed to impose their own mask mandates since August so long as their local requirements do not apply to businesses and residences.

President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to institute a nationwide mask mandate on his first day in office in January.

Kemp said the state has distributed more than 300,000 rapid COVID-19 tests across the state, stockpiled a 60-day supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) and worked with hospitals and nursing homes to provide the medical staff needed to treat coronavirus patients.

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