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Rep. Taylor speaks on special Coronavirus session, current state of emergency

On Monday, March 16, 2020, the Georgia General Assembly convened for an unprecedented special legislative session. Governor Brian Kemp signed a public health state of emergency to address the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, in Georgia on Saturday, March 14, and we and our colleagues convened for one legislative day to consider this important executive order. Article V, Section II, Paragraph VII of the Constitution of the State of Georgia grants the governor the power to convene a special session of the General Assembly, and Gov. Kemp called the House and Senate into a special session to take immediate action on ratifying the public health state of emergency through a joint resolution. This is the first time in Georgia’s history that this kind of emergency has been declared.

Over the last few weeks, our state officials have been closely monitoring the spread of COVID-19 in Georgia, and in just a matter of days, an increasing number of Georgians have tested positive for the virus. For this reason, Speaker of the House David Ralston and Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan made the decision to suspend the 2020 legislative session until further notice out of an abundance of caution and in the interest of the health and safety of our colleagues in the General Assembly, our staff and the public. We suspended the regular legislative session indefinitely after we adjourned for Legislative Day 29 on Friday, March 13.

The next day, after President Donald Trump signed a national emergency declaration for the U.S., Gov. Kemp declared a public health state of emergency to allow our state to address the growing threat of COVID-19.

In consultation with the Georgia Commissioner of Public Health, the Georgia Coronavirus Task Force and other state health and emergency preparedness officials, Gov. Kemp determined a public health emergency exists in the state and that it is necessary to take action to protect the health, safety and welfare of Georgia’s residents.

During the special legislative session, The House adopted House Resolution 4EX, which concurs with the governor’s executive order and ratifies the public health state of emergency. This public health state of emergency will assist health and emergency management officials across Georgia by allowing all of the state’s resources to be made available for the mitigation and treatment of COVID-19. The governor’s emergency executive order will allow the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) to direct specific health care action in extraordinary circumstances, suspends restrictions on hours of commercial vehicle operation and vehicle height, weight and length thresholds to assist in preparation and response efforts and authorizes the Georgia Composite Medical Board and Georgia Board of Nursing to grant temporary licenses to applicants who are in good standing in other states to assist in addressing health care needs.

Additionally, the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency will be the lead agency for responding to this public health emergency and will coordinate all emergency response activities. Gov. Kemp will also have the ability to compel a health care facility to provide services or the use of its facility if such services or use are reasonable and necessary for emergency response, as well as implement a mandatory vaccination or quarantine program.

While our state and country face these uncertain times, we encourage our constituents to take proactive measures to protect their families and communities against COVID-19. With preventative measures, we can join together as a state to help our health care systems manage coronavirus cases, as well as reduce the exponential rise of coronavirus cases across that state.

The DPH has provided helpful information on best practices that will help reduce the rise of positive cases over the next few weeks. We urge our constituents to follow the DPH’s guidelines and wash their hands, avoid touching their faces and practice social distancing to help slow the spread of the virus. For more information on how to reduce the risk for coronavirus, as well as how to take action if someone is experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, please visit the DPH’s website at www.dph.georgia.gov/novelcoronavirus.  we also encourage you to reach out to us with questions or concerns regarding the state’s plan to address COVID-19. You can reach us as follows:  Rep. Darlene Taylor telephone is 404-656-7857, or via email at darlene.taylor@house.ga.gov.; Rep. Rep. Joe Campbell telephone number 404.656.0298 or via email at joe.campbell@house.ga.gov.     

As always, thank you for allowing us to serve as your representative.