ATLANTA – Gov. Brian Kemp ordered up to 2,500 Georgia National Guard troops to prepare for deployment Tuesday as the state set a record high for coronavirus cases, Atlanta’s WGCL-TV reported Tuesday.

The state Department of Public Health (DPH) reported 13,670 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 or likely cases detected by positive antigen rapid tests, the highest total since early January.

The spike came as the highly contagious omicron variant of the virus first detected in Georgia more than three weeks ago continued to spread rapidly.

Atlanta officials reacted to the surge in cases by canceling the city’s annual New Year’s Eve Peach Drop for the third year in a row. Elsewhere, Emory University announced the spring semester will begin with classes conducted online.

The National Guard troops are expected to be assigned to areas where they’re most needed, including hospitals and testing sites, which have seen long lines during the last couple of weeks.

Kemp last deployed the National Guard to respond to the COVID-19 crisis during a surge in cases in August. Before that, Guard troops were sent to hard-hit nursing homes during the early days of the pandemic in March of last year.

There have been nearly 1.8 million confirmed or likely cases of COVID-19 in Georgia since the coronavirus pandemic began, according to the DPH. The virus has hospitalized 93,893 Georgians and resulted in 4,984 probable deaths.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.