Mar 23, 2020
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp Coronavirus Briefing Transcript March 23
Georgia governor Brian Kemp gave a “Shelter in Place” order for “medically fragile” people in the state today. Read the full transcript of his speech here.
Brian Kemp: (00:00)
I have implemented several targeted measures to slow the spread of coronavirus and protect vulnerable populations. Through the March 31st, elementary, secondary and post secondary schools remain closed. Where feasible, some school systems have moved to online learning, and I certainly want to applaud the local leaders for finding ways to keep our students engaged. I also want to thank the nutritionists, bus drivers and volunteers who are packing and delivering school lunches to students all across our state.
Brian Kemp: (00:35)
On March 12th, I directed state agencies to implement teleworking policies. Aside from the most critical government services, most state employees are now working from home. I’ve also restricted visitation at certain state-run health facilities, correctional facilities, and juvenile justice centers except in end of life circumstances.
Brian Kemp: (00:58)
On March 14th 2020, I declared a public health state of emergency to deploy additional resources and give the Department of Public Health authority to direct specific healthcare acts in our fight against the spread of COVID-19. As part of this state of emergency, I have authorized new processes for temporary licensure of out-of-state doctors and nurses, and I have authorized the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency to coordinate with the Georgia National Guard to call up as many as 2000 troops to assist in the emergency response if needed.
Brian Kemp: (01:38)
Last Friday, I signed two additional executive orders, one authorizing nearly $20 million in emergency funding to pay for necessary medical supplies and the other reducing regulations, especially in the healthcare context to address COVID-19. All Georgia licensed pharmacists are now permitted to dispense a 90-day supply of a prescription drug if a patient has no remaining refills and the pharmacist cannot get in contact with the prescribing provider. Pharmacists may also dispense early refills for prescription drugs. I would note that these authorizations do not apply to Schedule II controlled substances. In addition, the Board of Pharmacy is now empowered to grant temporary licenses to out-of-state pharmacists and I have lifted certain restrictions on the expansion of healthcare facilities, new services and expenditures. These measures will positively impact our healthcare infrastructure by removing regulatory red tape as we expedite projects to address patients’ needs.
Brian Kemp: (02:52)
Among other provisions, the order lifts requirements for in-person corporate shareholder meetings, allows Georgians to utilize private providers to comply with state minimum standard codes for building inspections and similar structures, and allows the Department of Community Health to waive regulations which would otherwise hinder our capabilities in responding to this crisis. Through the Department of Revenue, I have decided to extend George’s tax filing deadline to July 15th 2020, in accordance with the new federal tax filing deadline. We will be issuing more guidance on this change in the days ahead.
Brian Kemp: (03:35)
On March 12th 2020, the Department of Public Health notified cooperating agencies within the state about the activation of our strategic national stockpile. Accordingly, the department submitted a request to the strategic national resources or for strategic national resources to federal officials to support the state’s COVID-19 response. On March 13th 2020, our state’s multi-agency task force, comprised of officials from public health, emergency management and Homeland Security, the Forestry Commission, the Georgia State Patrol, Natural Resources, the Department of Defense, the Technical College System of Georgia, the University System of Georgia and local supporting agencies stood up our strategic national stockpile warehouse of personal protective equipment. The task force started distributing 18 packages of state-owned PPE to each of our state’s 18 public health districts to support local health care providers as well as County health departments.
Brian Kemp: (04:47)
Over the weekend we distributed 268295 surgical masks to all 142 hospitals across the state. Earlier today, we also distributed 30 ventilators to two of our hardest hit counties, Dougherty and Floyd. On March 16th 2020, the Federal Government’s first delivery of PPE began arriving at the state’s warehouse. To date, we have executed three scheduled resupplies to our 142 hospitals, 18 public health districts, affected long-term care facilities and the medical emergency providers in all 159 counties. We have shipped out 532170 N95 masks, 65640 face shields, 640600 surgical masks, 46700 surgical gowns, 635000 gloves and 64 pallets of general hospital supplies. According to the US Health and Human Services, Georgia will receive a second delivery of PPE within the next five days. GEMA has placed an order for respirators which are scheduled to be delivered to the state’s warehouse this Friday. GEMA continues to place orders for supplies and resources to support frontline healthcare providers as well as first responders.
Brian Kemp: (06:32)
Right now, one of our biggest challenges in our state is the healthcare capacity, especially in hotspots that we have. For example, in Dougherty County, we currently have 64 cases with six deaths from COVID-19. The capacity is becoming an acute problem for Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital . Several hospitals are facing potential bed space shortages and supply issues. To address these problems, we have identified multiple options to bolster capacity. For example, in Dougherty County, emergency management officials are working to reopen Phoebe North, which is currently closed but will offer at least 26 rooms for patients once we get it back up and running. In Albany, we have identified an additional facility with capacity for roughly 60 medical and isolation beds if they are needed. In addition, we have asked federal officials to allow us to keep the temporary medical facility at Dobbins Air Reserve Base once cruise ship passengers depart. We are hopeful that we will have this location for the Metro area for patient diversion. It will offer roughly 200 patients beds if needed.
Brian Kemp: (07:52)
At the Georgia Public Safety Training Center, we have completed construction of an isolation zone to hold as many as 20 emergency housing units, and the campus offers as many as 242 dorm rooms that we could use for potential patient surge in the future.
Brian Kemp: (08:10)
Earlier today, Vice President Pence called own governors to inventory all of our outpatient surgical centers to determine the potential for bed space. This process has already begun here in our state with the Department of Community Health and we will continue to work on that and report back to our federal counterparts once we have those numbers finalized. As part of this initiative, we urge care providers to consider canceling elective procedures to preserve medical supplies and to free up resources including workers as well as treatment space. So far, we have identified nearly 600 additional beds beyond what our hospitals currently offer, but our work there is far from over. Right now, the state is exploring projects with the Army Corps of Engineers for arena space in large buildings and we are considering the conversion of vacant and underutilized properties of all types for hospital space.
Brian Kemp: (09:13)
The Georgia National Guard is standing up teams to support regional coordinating hospitals and the first team will embed for training with Grady Health System within the next 48 hours. In addition, the Georgia Department of Defense is working with the Georgia Medical Reserve Corps to administratively attach to the state defense force, which is composed of volunteer workers to assist in emergencies. To bolster our responsiveness, Georgia has also signed a statewide contract with health care workforce logistics to deploy clinical staff during any patient surge.
Brian Kemp: (09:54)
To support Georgia’s ability to receive timely effective care, on March 9th Insurance and Fire Safety Commissioner John King issued a directive to insurance companies to ensure telemedicine and telehealth options be covered at the same rate as regular in-person care.
Brian Kemp: (10:14)
Over the past few weeks, we have seen a large increase in the number of applications submitted for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP. Last week alone, the division of family and children’s services received nearly 12000 online applications. That’s up from 6400 applications of two weeks ago. These numbers do not include the paper applications. Requests for medical assistance such as PeachCare for Kids and Medicaid have also increased. Last week, applications for medical assistance increased by 50%. Without question, our families are facing hardship in this time of need. State officials are working on plans to support the nutritional needs of its most vulnerable residents, allowing families who participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Food Program to access the maximum benefit amount for their household in March and April.
Brian Kemp: (11:16)
Right now, the average monthly SNAP benefit per Georgia household is $225. About $200 million in SNAP benefits is distributed to Georgians every month. This supplement will allow them to get the maximum benefit amount for their households size, which is $194 for a household of one in March and April. In March and April, approximately one million Georgians who receive SNAP will get an additional $100 dollars in nutritional benefits. This change could be a major support to senior citizens in our state who typically receive about $15 in SNAP benefits each month. This supplement will allow for them to get the maximum benefit for their households size which is $194 for a household of one in March and April.
Brian Kemp: (12:14)
State officials are also working with the US Department of Agriculture to issue increased supplement for March as soon as possible. March benefits have already been issued so the supplement will come in the form of a second allotment at the end of the month. This supplement will be included as part of the regular monthly benefit in April. To assist in other areas, the state is reassigning staff and working with federal partners to address the sudden increase in requests for public assistance as quickly as possible. We will continue to provide updates as we identify these solutions for our constituents.
Brian Kemp: (12:56)
Today, I will be issuing an executive order requiring that the Department of Public Health to require certain individuals with an increased risk of complications from COVID-19 to isolate quarantine or shelter in place. At a minimum, this order for isolation, quarantine or shelter in place covers those who are living in long-term care facilities, have chronic lung disease are undergoing cancer treatment, have a positive COVID-19 test, are suspected to have a COVID-19 because of their symptoms and exposure or have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19. The Department of Public Health will promulgate rules and regulations to implement this order and define how these individuals can access essential services, travel and receive visitors if there’s an end of life circumstance.
Brian Kemp: (13:54)
This order will also close all bars and nightclubs and it will ban all gatherings of 10 or more people, unless you can maintain six feet between people at all times. The Department of Public Health will be empowered to close any business or establishment, nonprofit or organization for noncompliance. These measures were developed using guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the Georgia Department of Public Health. This order will go in effect at 12:00 noon tomorrow and will expire at 12:00 noon on Monday, April the 6th 2020. These measures are intended to ensure the health and safety of Georgians across our state, and I would ask for everyone’s cooperation over the next two weeks. They will protect the medically fragile, mitigate potential exposure in public venues and allow the state to ramp up emergency preparedness efforts as cases increase in each region.
Brian Kemp: (15:02)
Additionally, I will sign an executive order today suspending restrictions against the practice of medicine by individuals whose licenses became inactive or lapsed within the past five years. Graduate nurses who have yet to take up their nursing exam will also be allowed to seek temporary licensure through the Georgia Board of Nursing. These measures will directly address critical healthcare needs in the weeks ahead.
Brian Kemp: (15:31)
Today I, along with 21 governors, signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to request new block grant funding for states to fight COVID-19. Governors across the country are on the front lines of this fight and many of us are spending heavily at the end of the budget year, facing a significant decline in economic activity during this crisis. We desperately need these resources and I look forward to working with our federal counterparts in the days and weeks ahead.
Brian Kemp: (16:13)
This fight is far from over, but we are in this fight together. Look out for your fellow Georgians and pray for their continued safety as well as the safety of our first responders, healthcare workers, the elderly, and the medically fragile. Please continue to follow the guidance of healthcare professionals by using best practices, regular hand-washing, social distancing and disinfecting frequently used areas to prevent infection.
Brian Kemp: (16:45)
While we have taken strategic direct action today, I am calling on my fellow citizens to fight this virus with everything you got. We are all part of this solution. If your friends, neighbors, or local organizations are not complying, call them out or report them to us. If any establishment isn’t following these directives, I would ask you to take your business somewhere else. We cannot let this virus defeat us. We are stronger than this crisis and we will weather this storm. Thank you, may God bless you and may God continue to bless this great state of Georgia. Good evening.
Brian Kemp: (17:26)