Georgia reflects one year after first known COVID-19 case

March 2021 will cause lots of reflection in Georgia and across the U.S. for one primary reason: The COVID-19 pandemic began to spread rapidly one year ago this month.

Gov. Brian Kemp addressed the state on March 2, 2020, to announce the first known cases in Georgia, a Fulton County man who had returned from a trip to Italy and his son.

Since then, the Georgia Department of Public Health has reported 819,730 known cases, 56,089 hospitalizations and 15,148 deaths linked to the virus, as of March 1.

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In the U.S., 514,660 people have died of COVID-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, with cases exceeding 28 million.  

Initially, there was little consensus on how to prevent the spread of the virus.

By March 12, state officials reported the first COVID-19 related death and there were known cases in at least 14 counties.

The initial death sparked school officials across the state to close classrooms and revert to digital instruction. 

As businesses closed and people began working from home, the state saw record levels of unemployment.

Georgia was one of the first states in the U.S. to begin re-opening businesses in April

Recently, state and federal agencies have turned their focus from testing to vaccinating. The first COVID-19 vaccines received emergency use authorization in December 2020. A third vaccine, this one requiring one dose, received official authorization last week.

RELATED: How to get the coronavirus vaccine in Georgia

In a video posted on Gov. Brian Kemp's Twitter account, Kemp reflected on some of the progress the state has made in battling the pandemic, including four mass vaccination sites in Georgia.

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"My top priority will be continuing to protect the most vulnerable, and getting Georgians back to normal," Kemp said in the announcement. 

To date, the state has administered more than 2 million vaccines, Kemp said. 

Last week, Kemp announced vaccine eligibility was expanding on March 8. The next phase adds Pre-K through 12th-grade educators and staff among other groups to be eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations in Georgia

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