Aug 10, 2020
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and US Surgeon General Jerome Adams COVID-19 Briefing Transcript August 10
Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia and US Surgeon General Jerome Adams held a press conference on August 10 to provide coronavirus updates. They discussed testing and reopening schools. Read the full transcript of the news conference speech here.
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Brian Kemp: (00:00)
With us, Dr. Jerome Adams. Thank you for coming back to Georgia. I also want to thank chairman Rob Pitts, the Fulton County chairman, chairman Jeff Turner from Clayton County for being with us. I want to thank John Seldon and all the folks from the Atlanta airport for their commitment to what we’re doing today and for their hospitality as well.
Brian Kemp: (00:24)
And this is just a great location for this testing site. And I know that Dr. Adams will be speaking about that. It was only a couple of weeks ago that Dr. Toomey and the surgeon general, and I traveled the state on our wear a mask, fly around. As you remember, we were urging Georgians to where a mask, practice social distancing, wash their hands and continue to follow the guidance that we’ve had out there from our public health folks like Dr. Toomey.
Brian Kemp: (00:55)
And today we’re taking another step forward in the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19 here in Georgia. As you all know, and have reported, we’ve seen some encouraging signs in recent weeks. For the first time since July the 18th, our active hospitalizations are below 3000. That is a 10% drop in 10 days. Our report as of yesterday had hospitalizations at 52,850 in yesterday’s report.
Brian Kemp: (01:29)
Through the Georgia coordinating center we are helping area hospitals provide the best care possible. And our hospital surge capacity plan is very strong with numerous available beds at the Piedmont Tower, as well as the Georgia World Congress Center site. We are seeing the curve flattened on new cases. The positivity rate continues to drop, and a continued decline in the effective reproduction rate of the virus.
Brian Kemp: (01:59)
And while this is positive progress, we still have a ways to go. And moving forward, we will continue to work with the hospital leadership throughout the state on surge capacity to ensure that we have the resources needed to keep Georgians healthy.
Brian Kemp: (02:17)
As of July 31st, our team at the Georgia Department of Community Health has surveyed 100% of our skilled nursing facilities for compliance with infection control measures, and we’ve led the way on implementing strict guidance to continue protecting the most vulnerable in our state. The shelter in place order for the medically fragile remains in place and I’m confident that this data driven approach is literally saving lives.
Brian Kemp: (02:49)
On the testing front we’ve also made great headway. We now have over 170 testing sites opened across our state, and we’ve added nearly 20,000 tests to our daily capacity since July 1st. As we’ve added the new capacity, our positivity rate across the state and in many former hotspots is now declining.
Brian Kemp: (03:13)
I’m grateful to all our partners in the private sector, in healthcare and across all levels of government who have been working around the clock to make this possible. But to ensure a healthy Georgia, we cannot stop here. Right here in Clayton County we’re seeing one of the highest positivity rates in the state at around 20%. That is unacceptable and that is why today is so important.
Brian Kemp: (03:43)
We all know that testing is a key weapon in our fight to stop the spread of COVID-19. With robust, accurate, and accessible testing, we can find the virus, isolate it and prevent the spreading. As we open this new mega side at Hartsfield-Jackson, we are adding 5,000 tests to our daily capacity here in the Metro Atlanta area.
Brian Kemp: (04:06)
And we will continue to monitor the data hourly, adjusting our strategy as needed to defeat COVID-19. As I’ve said before, we have come a long way, but we are not out of the woods yet. And we cannot take our foot off the gas. I’m asking that all Georgians continue to remain vigilant as we continue this fight.
Brian Kemp: (04:29)
Wear a mask when you’re in public and you cannot socially distance yourself. Socially distance yourself whenever possible. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and continue to heed the advice of great public health officials like Dr. Toomey and our surgeon general.
Brian Kemp: (04:50)
If we work together and if we continue to take measured steps forward, we can protect the lives and the livelihoods of all Georgians and ensure a safer, healthier, and more prosperous future for our state. I want to, again, thank the surgeon general, his team and our partners at the department of health and human services, as well as the Fulton County department of public health in Hartsville-Jackson for their tireless efforts to make today possible.
Brian Kemp: (05:23)
And I want to especially thank the department of public health, the Georgia national guard, and our whole team at the Georgia emergency management agency for what they have done through this pandemic to keep Georgians safe and for working with Fulton County to staff this mega site. This has truly been a team effort, and we are blessed to have some of the best in the business. Thank you all for being here today. And it’s my honor again, to welcome our US surgeon general, Dr. Jerome Adams, back to the great state of Georgia. Surgeon general?
Dr. Jerome Adams: (06:04)
Well, good morning everyone. You all can do better than that, Georgia. Good morning, everyone. Governor, thank you so much for having me back again. I really appreciate it. And I was thinking about what to say before I got on the plane this morning and I turned on the TV and there was a story about some of the challenges that Georgia is facing.
Dr. Jerome Adams: (06:31)
And I thought I could come here and talk about those challenges and I will, but I think it’s just as important, if not more important that we talk about the things that are going well here in the great state of Georgia. And as the governor mentioned, we went on a tour around the state just about a month ago, encouraging people to do what I call the three Ws, wear a mask, wash your hands and watch your distance. And in the last several weeks, we saw cases level off here in Georgia, and they look like they’re starting to come back down. We’re seeing positivity rates start to come back down on a state level. And that is due to the great work of many of the partners who are here today.
Dr. Jerome Adams: (07:21)
But as much as anything, it’s due to the great work of the people of Georgia, it’s due to the people who decided that they want to reopen and they realized the way to a safe and efficient reopening is by taking those basic public health measures that will slow the rate of disease spread in our communities. This pandemic has hit us hard, but we know what works to keep everyone safe.
Dr. Jerome Adams: (07:50)
We are excited for a vaccine. We’re excited for therapeutics and they’re being developed at a record pace. I talked to Tony Fauci almost daily, and he still expects a vaccine by the end of this year or the beginning of the next. But I want the people of Georgia to know we don’t have to wait until we get a vaccine, we don’t have to hide until we get a miracle therapeutic.
Dr. Jerome Adams: (08:14)
Look at New York city. They have a positivity rate less than 1%. They were among the worst in the world. Look at Spain and Italy, two of the hardest hit places in the entire world now open for tourism again, opening schools again, playing sports again. How did they do it? They did it by following the basic public health measures that we know will stop the spread of this disease.
Dr. Jerome Adams: (08:36)
And I know there’s a lot of people out there who feel like wearing one of these infringes upon their freedom, it’s taking away their choice. Here’s what I would say to you. I understand your concerns. I don’t like people telling me what to do either. Here’s the thing. Rather than tell you what to do, I want you to understand why taking these public health measures will help you be able to do more of the things that you enjoy.
Dr. Jerome Adams: (09:08)
Worship, school, restaurants. I want to see the Falcons and the Hawks play again in person. And we can get there if everyone does their part. I want to explain really quickly this concept of asymptomatic spread. So the novel Coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 is what we’re dealing with. And that virus is part of a family of viruses that include MERS, SARS and the common cold.
Dr. Jerome Adams: (09:37)
And based on everything we knew about those other viruses in the family, we did not expect that people could spread this disease to a major extent without symptoms. Put another way, if you have a cold, in most cases, you’re going to have a cough, you’re going to have a fever, you’re going to have a sneeze or watery eyes, and I’m going to know to stay away from you, you’re going to know to stay away from me.
Dr. Jerome Adams: (10:02)
What we’ve discovered about this novel Coronavirus is that a large number of cases are spread asymptomatically, meaning people who either have very mild or no symptoms. And that is why we recommend that you wear a mask. Because the governor and I, either one of us could have COVID right now and not know it. You can’t tell from looking at someone. It’s why we wear a mask to protect each other. And if we do that, we will slow spread of this disease and we will more quickly reopen.
Dr. Jerome Adams: (10:34)
I also had a conversation with the first lady. One of her major initiatives is promoting mental health. And I want everyone out there to know it’s okay not to be okay. This is a once in a century pandemic. People are scared, people are anxious, people are angry. If you’re feeling emotions that you can’t control or that are bothering you, we ask you to call the national helpline at 1-800-66…
Dr. Jerome Adams: (11:02)
We ask you to call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP. Unfortunately, we know that opioid overdoses are going up. Up 20% this year compared to last year. We know that every 1% increase in unemployment equates to a 1.3% increase in people who take their life by suicide. So we need you to understand it is okay not to be okay, call the National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP. Your call is free and counselors are standing by and available every day, no matter what time it is. Check on friends and family. You can use your phone. You can call. You can text. You can reach out over social media. You can send a good old fashioned snail mail letter, but reach out to someone who you know, and who you care about today.
Dr. Jerome Adams: (11:50)
If you’re the guardian or parent of kids in school, and I have a 16, a 14, and a 10 year old, the Governor and the First Lady and I were talking about our kids earlier. I want you to think about these things as you make decisions about the fall. First of all, consult your state and local health department website to learn about community transmission rates and trends. Talk to your kids’ school officials about their plans to protect students, faculty, staff, and the community. Assess your child and your family’s individual risks. We know that some people are at higher risk for complications of COVID than others due to obesity, due to diabetes, due to hypertension or high blood pressure, due to lung disease, and then make an informed decision. You can check out CDC’s decision making tool for parents and caregivers on Coronavirus.gov.
Dr. Jerome Adams: (12:43)
And remember what I started off by saying: the number one predictor of whether or not we’re going to be able to safely reopen is whether or not we can continue to drive down positivity rates and cases in Georgia like you have been doing. And the number one predictor of whether or not that will happen will be the number of people who follow the three W’s: wash your hands, wear a mask, watch your distance. If you beat COVID-19, you could play a special role in this fight. If you’ve tested positive for COVID, please consider donating your plasma if you’ve recovered. Doing so might just help others in this fight. Again, you can go to coronavirus.gov for more details.
Dr. Jerome Adams: (13:24)
One other thing that we can all do is get tested, particularly if you’re having symptoms of COVID. Again, go to your state or local health department website, or coronavirus.gov to find out about symptoms, or if you’ve been around someone who’s tested positive for COVID or if you’ve been in a high risk setting and close proximity to many other people. Go to www.doineedaCOVID19test.com. www.doineedaCOVID19test.com, it will walk you through whether or not you should come in and get a test and it will help you enroll so that you can come to this great site that we’re at today and get tested easily and quickly.
Dr. Jerome Adams: (14:05)
I’ve been to sites all around the country that are doing testing and this is among the best, the most efficient, the most comfortable. It’s covered. There are many different lanes. There are services available in English and in Spanish, you can easily come in and quickly get tested. And I know there are fears about testing. One other thing that I wanted to show you all, Dennis, do we have my swab and test? And what you want to know and understand is that testing is easy, it’s safe.
Dr. Jerome Adams: (14:43)
I’m going to put on my gloves here because we want to make sure we’re setting a good example. A lot of people are worried about the nasal pharyngeal swab. This version of testing that they have here just goes in the front of the nares. Actually, it tickles, it doesn’t hurt. It’s not hard to do. If you come to this testing site, you’ll drive up in your car. They’ll have you wind down your window and they will hand you a package with a swab and a specimen container in it. They will ask you to open your specimen container. Once you open your specimen container, they will ask you to open your swab. This is what the swab looks like.
Dr. Jerome Adams: (15:33)
They will ask you to then put the swab in your nose, turn it around three times. They’ll ask you to move it to the other side, turn it around three times. I can talk while I’m doing it. This is not far in your nose, just far enough to be able to get a sample of the virus. And they will then ask you to put it in the specimen container and to break it off, then you will close it tightly and you will give your specimen back to the people who are working here.
Dr. Jerome Adams: (16:09)
That is how easy it is to get your COVID test. So again, please come to www.doineedaCOVID19test.com, sign up today, get tested, do your part to slow spread of this virus. We can get there. We can reopen, and we can do it without waiting until we get a vaccine, but we need each and every one of you to continue to do your part. Thank you to all the partners who were here today. As the governor mentioned, this was made possible through cooperation with the Atlanta Airport, with state and local health departments, with the National Guard and with an array of other people who’ve made this possible for you, for you Georgia. So please, do your part, get tested, follow my three W’s: wear a mask, watch your distance, wash your hands and we’ll get through this.
Brian Kemp: (17:10)
All right. Thank you Dr. Adams, again for being here and for all our partners, just to remind the media, we’ll take a few questions, but we got John and the team from the airport, Chairman Turner, Chairman Pitts, myself, Dr. Toomey as well, some of our local health directors. I want to thank them for all that they’re doing each and every day that we’ll open it up for questions.
Brian Kemp: (17:32)
Brian Kemp: (17:44)
[inaudible 00:17:44] Well, I will just tell you, I’ve been in constant communication with a lot of our school superintendents and other educational leaders. I had a call this morning with the Georgia Association of Educators, as well as the school superintendents association and a local superintendent. There’s definitely going to be issues when you open anything, we saw that when we opened businesses, we’re seeing that when we open schools. We’ve given them guidance. We’ve worked with them to really give them the tools that they need to open the classroom.
Brian Kemp: (18:42)
And I think quite honestly, this week went real well, other than a couple of virtual photos. But the attitude from what they’re telling me was good, but there’s definitely going to be cases because of the virus, that’s why really today is so important that we continue to test. We continue to give the supplies, Homer Bryson, I should have mentioned him as well. Homer’s here to answer questions. We have given millions of masks to the local school systems, hand sanitizing stations and other equipment, cleaning equipment, to give them the tools that they need to open. And some of them are doing that. Others are virtual
Dr. Jerome Adams: (19:27)
I just want to jump in really quickly. And I want to foot stomp something that the governor said. When you reopen, whether it’s schools or worship or [inaudible 00:19:38] or sports, it’s not if you have a positive test, it’s when you have a positive test and it’s how you react and respond to it. And so one thing I do want to point out is that the fact that they were able to catch the positive test in the school around here is a testament to the fact that they had a plan in place. I also want to say, again, that one of the most important things that we can do to safely reopen anywhere is to drive down background community transmission rates. Because the more people in that community who are carrying the disease, the more likely it will get into any place that you reopen. And so to the people of Georgia, thank you for doing your part to drive down these numbers, we need to keep seeing them go into the right direction.
Dr. Jerome Adams: (20:29)
To the kids at schools, I want you to understand: if you want prom in person next year, if you want to go to spring break, if you want an in person graduation, then we need you to work together. This country has faced some dire challenges in the past, and we’ve always rallied. We’ve always united. We’ve always come together. I’m calling on everyone and I’m calling on the people who are going back to school in person, especially, to do their part. Make sure you’re washing your hands. Make sure you’re watching your distance. Make sure you are wearing your face mask because it’s going to help you. I’m not asking you to do this for me. I’m asking you to do this because you will benefit from it and you will get back to a sense of normalcy sooner.
Dr. Jerome Adams: (21:18)
And if we keep driving down these transmission rates, it’s not to say we won’t have cases, we will, we need to catch them. We need to isolate them. We need to quarantine people who’ve been exposed, but we will see more success with reopening and more sustained reopenings. And I would just also tell people again, please understand. There will be positive cases, no matter when we reopen, but we’ll have fewer positive cases with lower transmission rates. And we just want to make sure we have an appropriate plan in place to catch that transmission and stop it in its tracks when it does occur. And I’ll give it back to the Governor.
Speaker 1: (21:55)
Speaker 2: (22:00)
… encouraged students and school systems to [inaudible 00:22:03] mask [inaudible 00:22:04] to mandate masks.
Brian Kemp: (22:09)
Say that again. I’m sorry.
Speaker 2: (22:16)
Do you want schools to mandate masks in hallways [inaudible 00:22:17] possible to social distance?
Brian Kemp: (22:18)
Well, we’ve given the responsibility to the schools, to the local superintendents. Like most things in education, I’m a firm believer that the local governments know their school better than the state government does. We’ve been handling things that way for a long time. Obviously we went on a wear your mask fly around campaign, what, three, four weeks ago. We’re encouraging people, we did that again today, to wear your mask. I’m confident the superintendents have the tools, the resources, the masks that we have given them, as far as the state’s concerned, to be able to handle that at the local level, depending on what their classrooms are like, what the size of the school is, what the environment is, like the surgeon general just talked about.
Dr. Jerome Adams: (23:04)
I’ll jump in really quickly, if you don’t mind, Governor?
Dr. Jerome Adams: (23:08)
There’s a lot of talk about mandates. When you want to get someone to do something from a public health standpoint, whether it’s to get HIV tested or it’s to wear a mask or it’s to go out and exercise or it’s to quit smoking, there are three E’s that I think we often go to: One is enforcement, one is education, and one is engagement. Time and again in public health, we find that engagement and education gets you a lot further than enforcement.
Dr. Jerome Adams: (23:42)
I’ve got two teenage boys. If they don’t understand why I’m telling them to do something, they’re only going to do it when I’m watching. If they don’t believe they have a benefit, they’re not going to do it. But if they think it’s the cool thing to do, if they think it’s the normal thing to do, if they think it’s the right thing to do, and that they’re going to benefit from it, they’re going to be more likely to do it and do it consistently than if we try to mandate or enforce.
Dr. Jerome Adams: (24:10)
Again, I’ve said, I’m not against places having a mandate, but I want people to understand a mandate alone will not fix your problem, particularly when you’re dealing with young people. We need to educate them and help them understand why masks work, and I’m asking the media to help people understand what asymptomatic spread means and why people should be wearing a mask. We need the Atlanta Falcons. We need the Atlanta Hawks. We need all the influencers out there, who these teens look towards, to be out promoting mask wearing, to have masks with cool designs on them, to make it a cool, a fun and exciting thing to do. If we do that, we’ll see a lot more kids wearing mask than not wearing mask.
Dr. Jerome Adams: (24:58)
Again, I understand the questions about a mandate, but education and engagement are going to get you a lot further than just solely relying on enforcement to get young people to do things. Believe me, as a father of a 16 and a 14 year old, I know this to be true.
Sophia Choi: (25:15)
Governor, Sophia Choi, WSB. Tell me why this site is only going to be open for 12 days, and what specifically is happening in Atlanta, where we need a mega site like this?
Brian Kemp: (25:27)
Well, look, we’ve got great news in the metro area. If you look at the trends that we’ve had, Fulton, Gwinnett and Cobb are all starting to trend down. I had a call with the Metro Atlanta Hospital CEO’s last week, every single one of them, their systems are better off than they were two weeks ago in regards to COVID patients. I would remind you that the reason that we have the surge plan is so they have been able to continue to do non-elective surgeries and things of that nature and elective surgeries, where people can get the health outcomes that they need, regardless of what we’re dealing with COVID. If you remember back during the shutdown, we had 40, 50, 60% occupancy in our metro hospitals, 20, 30,000 healthcare workers were getting laid off. We cannot do that again. Our hospitals cannot afford that.
Brian Kemp: (26:23)
But here in Clayton County, as I mentioned, there’s a 22% positivity rate, even though yesterday, our positivity rate statewide was 8.2%. I think that’s one of the things that Dr. Redfield, Dr. Birx and certainly Dr. Adams and the whole team at the federal government felt like this was a good area to target. You were telling me that you all have done this in five or six other states. This’ll just bring that two week capacity to really put a focus on this. It’s great we got the local leaders here that are supporting these efforts with the two chairman being here. I mean, really it’s about like Dr. Adams said getting people to do the right thing, getting them to wear a mask. If they start feeling bad, call their doctor or come here and get a test and then distance yourself from people until you know the results of that test, where we can continue to flatten the curve and keep the needle moving in the direction that it is now, which is good. But as I said, we cannot take our foot off the gas.
Sophia Choi: (27:27)
Dr. Adams, can I just follow up? Dr. Adams, why just twelve days though? Is that long enough?
Dr. Jerome Adams: (27:34)
Thank you for the question. What we know about this virus is that the disease course is usually about two weeks. We know that if we lean into public health, preventative measures, we can turn the tide in two weeks in terms of cases, because what we do today, we will see in cases 7 to 14 days from now.
Dr. Jerome Adams: (27:59)
To your question about 12 days, that can be long enough for intense surge capacity or search testing if people continue to do their part by wearing a mask, washing their hands and watching their distance. I would encourage the state and the governor and Fulton County to reassess in 12 days, but the honest truth is this could be long enough to get people tested, to help people understand the burden of disease and where it’s existing to isolate people and to combine it with those public health measures, because you can’t test your way out of this problem. Testing shows you the problem. Important to us to do the testing, to have that baseline and to see where the problems are, but what we really need is everyone in Georgia to do their part, wash your hands, wear a mask, watch your distance, and we can turn this around in just a matter of a few weeks.
Sophia Choi: (28:50)
How are you getting the test results back within 48 to 72 hours? Other testing sites are having week long delays.
Dr. Jerome Adams: (28:57)
Well, again, I’d leave that to the state. I don’t know what their plan is for testing on a local level. What I will tell you is that turnaround times are very important to the task force. It’s something that we are tracking. I want everyone to understand about 50% of the tests done in the entire country are back within 24 hours, a quarter are a point-of-care tests that are back in 15 minutes, another quarter of tests that are done nationally are done in hospitals, where you get the results back in hours to less than 24 hours. We’re talking about 50% of tests that are done in commercial labs. Some of those commercial labs are a problem, and we are working directly with them through the task force. Some of them are doing much better in terms of turnaround times. We also are working in partnership with schools, universities, veterinary offices, other labs to decrease testing time.
Dr. Jerome Adams: (29:52)
I want people to know that we understand testing turnaround time ( silence) possible.
Dr. Jerome Adams: (30:03)
Dr. Toomey, is there anything you’d want to add about testing turnaround?
Dr. Toomey: (30:07)
Dr. Jerome Adams: (30:07)
Well, why don’t you come up so they can hear you at the microphone?
Dr. Toomey: (30:10)
Thank you. Thanks. Thanks very much.
Dr. Toomey: (30:11)
Hello. I appreciate you all being here today.
Dr. Toomey: (30:15)
Actually Fulton has really done an incredible job of ramping up their testing, and if you look at per capita test rates, Fulton is among the highest in the state. I think part of that is certainly Dr. Paxton’s leadership as she came in and expanded testing, and also partnerships, both with the business community as well as with CORE, that’s a private organization through Blank Foundation funding. We have over 170 test sites statewide, and we actually do about 40% of the testing in the state, and that’s probably not recognized by the public. In some areas, particularly in more rural areas, we may be doing over 90% of the total testing in those areas.
Dr. Toomey: (31:08)
Our goal is to expand access because we knew that we had gotten behind, that there was a delay, and able to get an appointment to come in, or even just to drive in without an appointment. We are expanding the capacity at most, if not all, of our fixed spots statewide with the help of the National Guard. We’re doing that over the next several weeks, so we will have additional testing capacity even as we have additional laboratory capacity, which will turn those specimens around much faster.
Dr. Toomey: (31:50)
I’ll say it before you ask me, because I know you’re going to ask me, it’s very difficult to do contact tracing when you don’t get the test results back fast. We recognize that. We want contact tracing to be a very important tool here in Georgia to help us stop the spread. We have almost 2,000 contact tracers already, but we have to be able to get those tests back quickly. We’re really working on all these aspects right now to be able to have that positive story for you.
Brian Kemp: (32:24)
Let me just add something.
Dr. Toomey: (32:29)
Brian Kemp: (32:31)
Let me just add one thing to the testing question. Just to remind people to the remarks, and I know a lot of times people miss the actual remarks from press conference and just talk about the questions. But I sit in there, we have on a good day, we have the ability now to do 20,000 more tests a day. If you remember just a couple of weeks ago, Dr. Toomey and I were both frustrated with how long it was taken. We did the partnership with [inaudible 00:32:58] 10,000 more tests a day. We’ve got this site. We’re very grateful to our f-
Brian Kemp: (33:03)
Today. We’ve got this site. We’re very grateful to our partners at the federal government and the Trump administration for helping us with this. Dr. Toomey’s team, as well as others, and my administration have been continuing to streamline testing.
Brian Kemp: (33:18)
But also, on the private sector side, one of the things that I’ve been hearing from the hospitals is that the private sector is now catching up from their backlog. And I think you got to really look around the country to understand why that’s happening when you have states like Arizona that are now on the backside of the curve and the like, where cases are starting to come down in places like Florida and Texas. The demand for testing is going down there, which helps the private sector labs catch up.
Brian Kemp: (33:46)
So that’s the one thing I think the public sometimes may not understand is you got the state testing that we’re doing, Dr. Toomey’s team and these great local public health officials with the Guard’s help, you got what the feds are helping us with here, but you also have the private sector side that, other than urging and pushing them, there’s really not a whole lot we can control on that.
Speaker 3: (34:13)
Governor Kemp, you mentioned specifically the vulnerable populations that are still in shelter-in-place and that’s going on months now. What is the criteria you’re looking for Georgia that to relax these restrictions, especially in nursing homes?
Brian Kemp: (34:26)
Well, I’m going to continue to follow the guidance and the advice of Dr. Toomey and her team on that. We’re also working with our longterm care facilities. I mean, look, that is probably one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make. I know that these populations, they need a social life. They need to be in good spirits to fight the situation that they’re in and what they’re dealing with mentally, just being afraid and scared of COVID and not being able to see their families, except maybe virtually, and we’ve been working, Commissioner Barry and his team as well, on that issue. We want to get where we can do that, but we’ve also got to make sure that it’s a safe environment. And we’re looking at some things right now to give them a social environment within the home to try to help with that situation.
Brian Kemp: (35:16)
I’m very open to that, but I’m also obviously very concerned because that is a very vulnerable population. So we’re continuing, Dr. Toomey and I both, are continuing to work with Frank Barry and community health on how we do that, as well as our industry partners.
Dr. Jerome Adams: (35:33)
And I want to give you and the state a shoutout. 40% of the deaths originally due to COVID were occurring in nursing homes. Now, the people who are getting the cases are much younger, and many fewer people are dying. And that is a testament to the great work of the Governor, the State Department of Health, the hospitals, and the nursing homes all coming together to make sure we’re protecting the people who are most vulnerable. That is, in the midst of all this tragedy, a success story that many fewer people, exponentially fewer people, are dying from this disease than were in the beginning.
Dr. Jerome Adams: (36:14)
I understand that people want to know what a timeline looks like. So here’s the timeline. Tony Fauci and I talk every day. Tony still believes we will have a vaccine by the end of this year or the beginning of next year. What we are trying to do is buy ourselves time through public health measures until we get to a vaccine. And then once we get people vaccinated, then we will be able to more safely reopen. We want to buy time until we can get more point of care tests developed.
Dr. Jerome Adams: (36:49)
And the National institutes of Health have a great initiative, really a Shark Tank initiative, where they’ve brought in companies from all over the world to compete and to… Well, I say compete. They’re really working together to develop point of care tests. And if we can get more point of care tests in nursing homes, then we can test people, and that’s another way we can get people into these homes.
Dr. Jerome Adams: (37:13)
But right now, I encourage people to use telephones, computers, ways to connect virtually. Some nursing homes have done some really innovative things where they’ve had people outside, but well socially distanced, far enough away as you and I, where they can still see each other. There are ways that we can address the interaction and the mental health issues.
Dr. Jerome Adams: (37:35)
But I want people to know this is not forever. This is to get us through to the development of therapeutics, of vaccines, of the things that we know will help put an end to this once and for all, with as little loss of life as possible. And kudos to the people of Georgia for protecting the vulnerable. Look out for your grandmother, your aunt, your uncle, the people in your life who are vulnerable. Call them, reassure them, but know that this will not be forever.
Speaker 4: (38:07)
What do you think about the President’s executive order extending unemployment benefits, and specifically, the provision that would require states to chip in a quarter of that. Can Georgia afford that right now?
Brian Kemp: (38:16)
Well, we’re digging in on that issue. Personally, I appreciate the President acting. We’ve all seen gridlock in Congress before a November election before, and I think that’s what’s happening now. So I certainly want to applaud the President for taking the action to help hardworking American citizens as well as Georgians.
Brian Kemp: (38:38)
What that looks like on the unemployment, I know our team’s talking to Commissioner Butler right now, our OPP director. But I also just want to thank the Surgeon General and the administration for all their support. I talked to the Vice President Friday about the continuation of what Georgia National Guard’s doing to support our longterm care facilities and other things that they’ve had on their mission, the amount of communication that we’ve had with them and the task force. We have a call later today. So I assume we’ll be learning more about that issue, but we’re going to continue to dig into that. Sandra?
Governor, [inaudible 00:39:18]
Brian Kemp: (39:36)
Well, the reason for the set a special session, as you can refer back to the statement that we put out, was in regards to a Senate Bill 105 dealing with, or it may have been House Bill 105, but dealing with… There was a lot of things that got kind of Christmas treed on that bill, the Uber/Lyft fee versus the tax, and then you had the Hurricane Michael tax relief for farmers, which we cannot jeopardize. And that is the reason for the special session.
Speaker 5: (40:09)
Brian Kemp: (40:09)
All right. We’re good? All right, thanks, everybody.
Brian Kemp: (40:10)
Hi, General. Good to see you. Sorry about the [inaudible 00:40:16].
Speaker 5: (40:30)
Good job. No, no, no. Good job.
Brian Kemp: (40:30)
Speaker 5: (40:30)
It’s great to meet you. Thank you so much for all you do.
Brian Kemp: (40:51)
Thank you for saying that. [crosstalk 00:40:51]