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VIRUS OUTBREAK-GEORGIA

A third of Georgia's 1,400 coronavirus patients hospitalized

ATLANTA (AP) — State health officials say confirmed infections from the new coronavirus in Georgia have risen to nearly 1,400. Numbers released Wednesday show that nearly a third of those people were hospitalized. Nearly 50 deaths in the state have been attributed to the virus. In four counties, the number of confirmed cases topped 100, with Fulton County tallying more than 200 infections. The spread of the virus also continued to take its toll on businesses big and small. Waffle House, known for its "always open" restaurants, has closed more than 400 of its nearly 2,000 outlets. And Kia Motors Corp. is suspending production at its plant in southwest Georgia.

AP-US-VIRUS-OUTBREAK-RURAL-AMERICA

Rural America watches pandemic erupt in cities as fear grows

DUFUR, Ore. (AP) — The pandemic's toll in big cities like New York, Seattle and San Francisco has dominated headlines, but large swaths of rural America are also deeply affected. Tiny towns tucked into Oregon's windswept plains or on Alaska's arctic tundra might not have a single case of the new coronavirus yet, but these small communities are still wary. They fear the spread of the disease to areas with scarce medical resources, the social isolation that comes when the only diner in town closes its doors and the economic free fall that's hitting hard in places where jobs were already hard to come by.

AP-US-VIRUS-OUTBREAK-PUBLIX-BARRIERS

Publix stores to have barriers for cashiers as virus spreads

MIAMI (AP) — Florida-based grocery chain Publix says it will begin installing plexiglass barriers at the cash registers to protect its workers and customers from the coronavirus. A company spokeswoman says all of its stores should have the barriers installed within the next two weeks. Publix has joined its competitors Kroger and Walmart in installing the so-called “sneeze guards.” Grocery stores are seeing their business soar as authorities urge people only to go out for essentials, prompting them to stay inside and cook more at home. Publix has more than 1,200 locations spread across Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

AP-US-VIRUS-OUTBEAK-ELECTIONS

Virus bill sends $400 million to help states with elections

ATLANTA (AP) — States could receive $400 million in federal funds to help them navigate the significant disruption to U.S. elections caused by the virus outbreak. The situation has prompted officials in at least 20 states to push back some voting as large portions of the population have been told to stay home. The federal funds are contained in a compromise federal economic plan obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday. Election experts say it falls considerably short of the estimated $2 billion it would take for states to make mail-in ballots available to every voter in the U.S. while maintaining some level of in-person voting.

AP-GA-SUSPECT-FEARED-CORONAVIRUS

Police: Man points gun at women in masks, feared coronavirus

ATLANTA (AP) — Authorities say a Georgia man who feared getting the coronavirus pointed a gun at two women wearing medical masks and gloves in a post office. Police say the suspect confronted a woman and her adult granddaughter in a building north of Atlanta on Sunday. He was identified by news outlets as 75-year-old Harvey Joel Taratoot. The victims told police Taratoot pulled out his handgun and yelled at them to get back after they entered the post office. Taratoot peacefully surrendered to police while armed at his house. He was arrested on a charge of pointing a pistol at another and was later released on bail.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-GEORGIA ELECTION

Georgia to mail absentee ballot applications to all voters

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia election officials will mail a form that can be used to request an absentee ballot to all 6.9 million registered voters in the state. The decision was announced Tuesday by Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. The state's March 24 presidential primaries were postponed to May 19 because of the new coronavirus. Raffensperger is encouraging as many voters as possible to vote by mail, as the virus continues to spread in the state. Voters in Georgia can vote absentee by mail without needing to give an excuse. The number of confirmed coronavirus infections in Georgia pushed past 1,000 on Tuesday.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-GEORGIA

Albany hospital fills as Georgia infections near 1,100

ATLANTA (AP) — The number of confirmed virus infections in Georgia has pushed to nearly 1,100, with deaths rising to 38. Officials in southwest Georgia's largest city warned Tuesday that they're out of intensive care space for patients with the COVID-19 respiratory illness. The number of positive results statewide are up 37% since Monday evening, with southwest Georgia's Dougherty County still reporting the highest per capita numbers. Infections there rose to 101. The state's cities are being urged to impose more restrictions to slow the spread of the virus. The Georgia Municipal Association advises the state's 538 cities to order overnight curfews and close gyms, movie theaters and other businesses.

PHARMACIST ILLEGAL PRESCRIPTIONS

Georgia pharmacy gets $2M in fines for illegal prescriptions

HAZELHURST, Ga. (AP) — Authorities say a south Georgia pharmacy which gave out 350,000 illegal prescriptions from a doctor running a pill mill has agreed to pay over $2 million in fines. Officials say Chip’s Discount Drugs and its pharmacist-Rogers “Chip” Wood, Jr. settled on a federal lawsuit on Tuesday. The lawsuit says the pharmacy ignored red flags and gave thousands of illegal prescriptions for opioids and other substances written by Doctor Frank Bynes, Jr. over the course of two years. Bynes was sentenced in February to 20 years in federal prison for writing illegal prescriptions. Officials say the settlement is the fifth prosecution of pharmacies or pharmacists affiliated with Bynes.