Latest Georgia news, sports, business and entertainment at 9:20 p.m. EDT


Georgia governor closes all public schools, colleges

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is closing all public schools and colleges until at least March 31 to fight the spread of the coronavirus. The Republican governor made the announcement Monday, hours after lawmakers ratified Kemp's emergency declaration of Saturday. Most public schools in the state had already closed down on their own. Kemp says the move is critical to reduce the spread of the virus that causes the COVID-19 respiratory illness. The state university system says its 26 universities and colleges will not resume in-person instruction for the spring semester. It will instead shift classes as online “with extremely limited exceptions.”


States turn to cash reserves as coronavirus strains budgets

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo (AP) — State across the U.S. are allocating hundreds of millions of dollars to respond to the new coronavirus, even as the U.S. government prepares to send billions of more dollars their way. Trump announced Friday that he would free up as much as $50 billion for state and local governments to respond to the outbreak. But many states already have taken steps to pitch in their own money. Some are pulling money out of their rainy day funds for emergency expenses. Others are looking to place more in reserves in case the economic uncertainty caused by the new coronavirus leads to a downturn in state tax revenues.


Judge: Cancellation of high court election was legal

ATLANTA (AP) — A judge ruled that Georgia's secretary of state legally canceled a scheduled May 19 election for a seat on the state's highest court. The Fulton County Superior Court judge wrote in an order Monday that the governor has the right to fill the vacancy created by a resignation, even if it doesn't take effect until months later. After a Georgia Supreme Court justice announced he would resign in November, the governor said he planned to fill the seat by appointment. Two would-be challengers sued, asking a judge to order the secretary of state to put the judicial election back on the calendar and allow candidates to qualify.


Worshippers go online, those at services keep a distance

ATLANTA (AP) — Pastors across the United States delivered sermons to empty pews as houses of worship adjust to the reality of the coronavirus pandemic. Many religious institutions around the country are streaming their services this week, while others asked congregations to keep their distances and limit physical contact. Religious institutions worldwide are altering worship, including the Vatican, which says Holy Week liturgical celebrations next month will not be open to the public. Spain is following suit on its measures and the Orthodox Church of Cyprus says believers should refrain from attending services for three weeks.


Fire crews investigate weekend blaze at Georgia paper mill

COOSA, Ga. (AP) — Fire investigators say they are trying to determine what started a blaze that caused extensive damage to a paper mill in northwest Georgia. Rome-Floyd County Fire officials confirm that a large building at the International Paper mill, about 12 miles from Rome, caught fire early Sunday. Fire Marshal Mary Catherine Chewning told the Rome News-Tribune that one mill employee was taken to the hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation. No serious injuries were reported. Chewning said the fire appeared to have started near two paper machines, but crews were still investigating Monday. A mill spokeswoman said the company hasn't yet determined the fire's impact on production.


Virus fears fuel spike in sales of guns and ammunition

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Just as grocery stores have been stripped bare by Americans panicked by coronavirus, guns and ammo have been flying off the shelves too. Retailers say the buying frenzy is being fueled by consumers who are worried that people are becoming desperate and unpredictable. One gun shop owner compared the activity to a “Twilight Zone” episode. Some of the purchases are by people buying their first firearm. Others are from existing gun owners adding to their collection or stocking up on ammunition. Also potentially driving the sales are concerns that elected officials may try to restrict access to firearms.


After floods, soggy south Georgia fears spread of mosquitoes

ALBANY, Ga. (AP) — Soggy areas of south Georgia recovering from heavy rains and flooding are bracing for a new threat _ swarms of mosquitoes. WALB-TV reports mosquito control officers in Dougherty County are doing what they can to fight the blood-sucking bugs. Donell Mathis, the county environmental control manager, said his team is dropping briquettes into standing water that keep mosquito eggs from hatching. But they can only do that on public property. Mathis said homeowners need to take charge around their own houses and dump any standing water in buckets, birdbaths, old tires and other places that can serve as mosquito nurseries. Georgia's mosquito season typically starts in March and can stretch into the summer.


Hit by virus, US airlines seek aid far exceeding post-9/11

U.S. airlines are asking the federal government for grants, loans and tax relief that could easily top $50 billion to help them recover from a sharp downturn in travel due to the new coronavirus. Airlines for America, the trade group representing the carriers, posted its request for financial help on Monday. It is asking for $29 billion in federal grants, with $25 billion for passenger airlines and $4 billion for cargo carriers. The airlines are also seeking up to $29 billion in zero-interest loans or loan guarantees, and they want federal excise taxes on fuel, cargo and airline tickets to be suspended through the end of next year.