Kemp gives COVID-19 update

Posted by Governor Brian Kemp on Thursday, May 21, 2020

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp says he’s encouraged by the data and feedback he’s getting from public health officials since launching a phased-in reopening of the state on April 24.

During a briefing this afternoon at the State Capitol, Kemp said COVID-19 testing remains a priority, and results show a steady decline in the number of new cases.

“We reached another milestone this week,” said Kemp. “As of today, we have less than 1,000 COVID-19 patients hospitalized. This is a 38% drop since May the first.”

Kemp announced that the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) and National Guard have developed a plan to continue providing support to the state’s 790 senior living facilities across the state. The Guard has produced and will distribute a video to facilities, instructing them on proper disinfection procedures. In addition, GEMA will distribute disinfectant foggers, PPE, and sanitation supplies to at least 373 nursing homes in the state and will supply them with 14,000 face shields. The state agencies also will work with nursing home facilities to get them on routine disinfectant schedules and ensure they follow appropriate guidelines.

Addressing recent concerns over the accuracy of public health data, Kemp said, “We’re not perfect, we make mistakes.” He sought to assure Georgians “we are committed to being transparent as we weather this healthcare crisis.”

“We reported the first case March 2 and here we are just a few months later with thousands of cases,” explained State Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey. She said it is an “unprecedented ask” of medical surveillance to adapt so quickly, especially to a virus with no historical data. As cases are investigated, some data changes. Toomey says, “It’s not a mistake. This is how public health reporting occurs.”

Still, she made clear to that “this is a time that we need the public’s trust and we won’t have the public’s trust unless we can assure them this data is accurate.”

The department of public health is ramping up its contract tracing efforts. It’s relying on a new collaborative effort called Healthy Georgia. Toomey said it’s not just a COVID virus prevention effort but a community partnership. Public health officials are partnering with faith leaders, local hospitals, and members of the business community to encourage people to participate in case interviews. Toomey says the state has conducted 3,300 interviews with COVID patients and identified over 9,000 contacts. She says by Monday “we will have onboard 900 contact tracers.” By mid-June the state expects to have 1,000 contact tracers hired to conduct the interviews.

Toomey said contact tracing is “absolutely essential to us stopping the virus now at this stage in the pandemic.”

Kemp and the other state leaders spent a good portion of time during Thursday’s briefing to talk about the upcoming Memorial Day weekend. State parks and day use facilities will be open. Officials will be out enforcing the governor’s executive orders on limiting large gatherings and following social distancing.

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