Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, officials give update on COVID-19

Published 3:15 pm Tuesday, May 26, 2020

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Last Thursday at the State Capitol, Governor Kemp and state officials delivered the following update on COVID-19:

“Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for joining us for our weekly COVID-19 briefing. I’m joined today by Dr. Kathleen Toomey, Director Homer Bryson, General Tom Carden, Colonel Gary Vowell, Commissioner Mark Williams, and Commissioner Gary Black.

“For several months, our nation has been fighting an invisible enemy and uniting to ensure the health and well-being of all Americans. The path has been long and difficult, and everyone is making sacrifices to keep one another out of harm’s way as we fight to stop the spread of coronavirus in communities across the United States: medical providers, public health officials, frontline workers, first responders, and law enforcement. They’re all working long hours and spending significant time away from their families to limit potential exposure. These brave men and women are literally saving lives. It is impossible to thank them enough for what they’ve done for us, and I know countless Georgians join my family and I in praying for them daily.

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“This weekend is a powerful one for all Americans. For years, we have taken this moment to reflect on the sacrifices made by those in uniform. We honor these American heroes who answered the call of duty and paid the ultimate price for our freedom. Earlier today, I attended a Memorial Day ceremony with the Georgia National Guard to honor the lives of Retired Master Sergeant Mark Christopher Allen and many other American heroes. Master Sergeant Allen’s family, fellow service members, and many others were in attendance as we took some time to remember those we’ve lost and acknowledge our many blessings as Georgians and Americans. This year, Memorial Day will be even more powerful as we find inspiration from our fallen soldiers. We need their courage and commitment, now more than ever.

“While the battle against COVID-19 is far from over, I remain encouraged by the data and feedback from public health officials. As you know, testing remains a top priority as we take measured steps forward. In addition to rapidly increasing testing capacity, we have also seen a steady decline in the percentage of patients testing positive for COVID-19. This is a key data point and a real testament to hardworking Georgians everywhere who are following the guidance, wearing masks, and social distancing. While inconvenient at times, these proactive measures are really paying off. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished over the last several weeks, but we can’t rest on our laurels. We need to further expand access to testing, and we need to encourage Georgians to make it a priority. This morning, we were proud to announce that CVS Health is opening twenty-three new drive-thru testing sites across Georgia. Now, more Georgians in more communities will have access to convenient and quick COVID-19 testing options. I want to thank CVS President and CEO Larry Merlo and his team for their commitment and strong partnership.

“I am also excited to see that several Georgia companies have partnered with Augusta University to help accomplish their mission in this fight against COVID-19. Our friends at SK Innovation recently joined numerous businesses and organizations in financially backing AU’s efforts. And earlier today, Augusta University announced a partnership with Sharecare, the state’s official wellness vendor. Through the Well-Being Georgia website, Sharecare will help members of the State Health Benefit Plan access vital tools and resources to keep their families safe and sound. This website drives traffic to the AU Health ExpressCare app for free virtual COVID-19 screenings, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, with no appointment and no cost required. Again, we are so grateful for these types of partnerships that help us move the needle in this fight.

“Speaking of making progress, we reached another important milestone this week. As of today, we have less than 1,000 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in our state. GEMA’s 1 PM update has that number at 919 patients. That’s a 38% drop since May 1. I want to thank our hospitals – large and small – for working with us over the last several months to enhance surge capacity. And as always, I want to thank our frontline workers for helping to nurse these patients back to health.

“As a reminder, Georgia’s health systems are ready to serve patients for elective procedures and routine appointments. We strongly encourage everyone to get important check-ups on their calendar. In the past few days, we’ve seen reports that some of our largest, most successful hospital systems are having to furlough staff in the midst of a pandemic. Please go to the doctor for a check-up if you’re due for one, schedule time for routine procedures – like dental cleanings and eye exams – and prioritize your health.

“One of the most aggressive actions taken to battle the spread of COVID-19 in Georgia has been the disinfection efforts undertaken by the Georgia National Guard in our long-term care facilities, including nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and personal care homes. The Georgia Health Care Association, the National Guard, and GEMA have been discussing best options to continue those efforts and protect our senior citizens. Working together, they have developed a plan that I have approved to continue the disinfection efforts in all 790 senior living facilities across our state. Their strategy is a three-pronged approach. First, the Georgia National Guard has produced and will be providing an instructional video on how to safely and properly disinfect facilities. Additionally, GEMA has purchased and will distribute industrial foggers, disinfectant solution, and appropriate PPE to 353 nursing homes, and we anticipate that those supplies will be delivered within the next four weeks. Our PPE shipments will mirror a recent, seven-day supply of PPE from FEMA to nursing homes as part of their ‘Operation Commitment to Care.’ In total, Georgia will be sending approximately 14,000 face shields; 161,000 masks; 749,000 gloves; and 35,300 gowns to our nursing homes. Finally, we have worked with these facilities to ensure that they incorporate disinfection efforts into their regular cleaning schedules and follow the appropriate guidelines.

“Across the nation, the 2020 Census is underway to ensure an accurate count of the population every ten years. This effort plays a vital role in allocating representation among states and funding large-scale projects, like infrastructure, health, and education. The amount of federal funding that we receive for these projects depends on our state’s participation, and right now, Georgia’s response rate is 55.8% – lagging 3.8% behind the national rate. If you haven’t responded yet, visit or call 1-800-330-2020.

“Before I turn the podium over to Dr. Toomey, I want to address recent data reporting concerns involving the Department of Public Health’s website. I have said from the very beginning that we are making decisions based on data, science, and the advice of public health officials like Dr. Toomey. We are also committed to full transparency and honesty as we weather this healthcare crisis. Georgia families, businesses, local leaders, and the press deserve accurate data, and I know that Dr. Toomey’s team is working around the clock to collect, sort, and produce that information. We are blessed to have one of the best Public Health Directors in the nation leading our state through this pandemic, and her team is working around the clock to ensure the health and well-being of all Georgians. They are taking massive amounts of data from countless sources, putting it into an accessible format under a global spotlight – all at break-neck speed. Please afford them some patience, and please steer clear of personal attacks.

“We’re all in this fight together. This Memorial Day, we want everyone to have a good, safe weekend in accordance with public health guidance. Now, I’ll turn it over to Dr. Toomey.”