Kemp said in the past two days, the modeling and data in regard to COVID-19 has "dramatically changed" in Georgia as well as other states around the country. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced that people can be infected with the virus earlier than previously thought, even without showing symptoms.
"From a public health standpoint, this is a revelation and a game changer," Kemp said during the press conference.
Additionally, new data shows Georgia will need more time to prepare for hospital surge capacity, Kemp said. According to research updated March 31 from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Georgia will reach its peak hospital resource use on April 23, assuming continued social distancing measures through the end of May.
Kemp said these are the reasons for issuing the executive order to close schools—while still continuing remote learning plans—and ordering a statewide shelter in place.
"We are taking action to protect our hospitals, to help our medical providers and prepare for the patient surge that we know is coming," Kemp said.
Kathleen Toomey, commissioner of the GDPH, said outbreaks have risen across the state from social gatherings and other close-quarter groups, including prisons, jails, long-term care facilities, funerals and social gatherings.
"Every possible situation where people are in a congregate setting or gathered together can be a potential site for transmission," Toomey said. "As we've said so many times before, protect yourselves and your family, but please take responsibility for your community as well. It will be your actions that protect the community as a whole."
Toomey also addressed comments she has heard equating the coronavirus to the flu.
"This is not 'just like the flu.' It's many times more transmissible and it's much more deadly," she said. "We have absolutely no immunity to this. We don't have a vaccine; our bodies were not exposed to this before so we can't fight this off."
Under the new order, people caught not complying will be punished with a fine or misdemeanor by state law enforcement. Specifics and guidance for the order—and what businesses will be considered "essential"—will be available by April 2.
"Hardworking Georgians from every corner of our state, now is the time to fight and be strong and courageous," Kemp said.