Apr 27, 2020
Governor Brian Kemp Georgia COVID-19 Briefing Transcript April 27
Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia held an April 27 press conference on coronavirus. He answered questions about reopening Georgia businesses. Read the full transcript of his news conference here.
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Brian Kemp: (00:00)
… University and the Georgia Public Health Lab. In roughly 72 hours, you will be able to access your test results via a secure payment portal and a medical provider will contact you directly if you are positive. Since the start of the public health emergency local public health test sites across Georgia have collected more than 32,000 specimens for testing. Last week alone, by aggressively pushing for more testing, local departments collected 12,086 specimens for testing, a 64% increase from the previous week. Georgia’s public health departments now have 49 test sites open across our state. Yesterday we also announced a partnership with Walmart, True North and state and local officials to set up drive through sites and communities with limited testing access. Beginning today, a mobile testing unit will now serve Augusta, Milledgeville, Tifton and surrounding regions on a rotating basis. This unit will test Georgians with symptoms of COVID-19, and healthcare providers and first responders can beat tested whether they have symptoms or if they do not.
Brian Kemp: (01:21)
Georgians can make an appointment at www.doineedacovid19test.com. Again, www.doineedacovid19test.com, and on site scheduling will also be available. We are grateful to Walmart, True North, and community leaders for their help to get this operation up and running. To prepare for patient surge, our hospitals have worked around the clock to identify hundreds more general use and critical care beds for COVID-19 treatment. Hospitals were able to identify hundreds more and as of this morning we have 1,023 critical care beds available for patients across our state. It is the highest number of critical care beds that we’ve had available since hospitals began tracking this data. Ventilator use has also declined over the past few weeks. There are roughly 1,000 ventilators in use across Georgia with more than 1,800 ventilators available for a total capacity of 2,800. Currently there are nine recovering COVID-19 patients at the alternative care facility as the Georgia World Congress Center, they were transferred from Grady, Emory and WellStar to open acute care hospital beds for incoming patients.
Brian Kemp: (02:52)
We continue to coordinate with our hospitals to monitor capacity and if needed to accept non-critical or non-intensive care patients. In Southwest Georgia, as you know, we partnered with local leaders to build out Phoebe North in Albany for use by nearby Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital. Of the 12 ICU rooms completed on April the 20th, 10 are currently occupied and out of 30 general patient rooms that we have built, 19 are currently occupied. By April 29th we expect to have an additional 29 rooms with a minimum of 15 new ICU rooms.
Brian Kemp: (03:37)
Although we are seeing declining transmission in the community, we will continue to identify opportunities for expanded access to ensure that locals have what they need to fight this virus. As I have mentioned previously, the state purchased four temporary hospital units to deploy to Albany, Rome, Macon, and Gainsborough. By May 6th we will complete installation of units at Phoebe Putney Memorial hospital in Albany, Floyd medical Center in Rome and Navicent Health in Macon. Phoebe Putney hospital will gain 24 general hospital beds. Floyd Medical Center in Rome will gain six critical care beds and 14 general hospital, beds and Navicent Health in Macon making will gain seven critical care beds and 17 … Also launched a temporary nurse aide training program to address staffing challenges in longterm care.
Brian Kemp: (06:17)
This program was established with assistance from the Georgia Healthcare Association and Allied Health Solutions to provide quick onboarding for nurses aides needed to care for residents during this emergency period. I commend commissioner Frank Barry and his team for developing the resources for our Georgia families. For weeks now my team has worked closely with the Trump administration and our federal counterparts to medicate the impact of this virus in Georgia. Our decisions and directives are informed by data and public health recommendations and we remain focused on protecting the lives and the livelihoods of all Georgians. To slow the spread of COVID-19 and prepare for hospital search capacity, we asked Georgians to shelter in place and closed specific businesses throughout our state. Most businesses remain open with restrictions to ensure community health and wellbeing.
Brian Kemp: (07:20)
We were successful in our efforts to protect Georgians as well as our state’s healthcare infrastructure. With favorable data and approval from health officials, we looked at it, we took a measured step board by opening many shuttered businesses throughout Georgia for limited operations. And starting today theaters may reopen and restaurants and dining rooms, including those at private social clubs will be allowed to resume dining services if they meet certain mandated criteria that will help continue to, to prevent the spread of COVID- 19. Bars, night clubs, operators of amusement park rides and live performance venues will remain closed and the shelter in place order remains in effect through April the 30th 2020. Medically fragile and elderly Georgians must continue to shelter in place until at least May the 13th. And as we assess the situation, we will continue to provide updates. I’d like to ask all Georgians to help us double down on protecting our fellow vulnerable citizens.
Brian Kemp: (08:38)
As you know, this disease has a wicked effect on these individuals and we got to continue to raise awareness and take care of those folks and continue to combat the issues that we’re seeing in our longterm care facilities. Over the weekend, the Department of Public Safety was on call to respond to complaints regarding compliance with the executive orders for specific businesses that were reopening. On Saturday, none of our nine Georgia State Patrol command centers reported any sustained complaints of noncompliance. On Sunday, the Georgia State Patrol received 12 calls with only two sustained complaints, both of which involved large gatherings. Officers use these opportunities to raise awareness about social distancing rules as they have been doing for weeks now across our state. And I’m proud to say that both groups voluntarily dispersed. Georgians had been heeding the advice of our public health officials and our law enforcement to ensure the health and wellbeing of customers and workers. But we will continue to monitor compliance in every region of the state.
Brian Kemp: (09:58)
Before I move on, I want to take a few minutes to thank all those in our law enforcement community for their work through this pandemic. Like our healthcare workers, they have worked long hours to keep our citizens safe in every zip code and we appreciate their sacrifices. I hope you all will continue to keep them in your thoughts and prayers as well as those that are supporting them while they’re away from home and please pray for the loved ones of fallen Smyrna police officer Christopher Ewing who lost his life in the line of duty just a few days ago. He was certainly beloved by his community and he will be missed by them and us.
Brian Kemp: (10:46)
Working with the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Santiago Marquez who serves on our community outreach committee and insurance commissioner John King, we are strengthening efforts to inform Georgia’s Latino community about the risks of COVID-19. Partnering with the Mexican consulate General King and Mr. Mark Keys, we will continue to actively engage communities across our state starting in Hall County. Over the past few weeks, as other areas of our state have seen reduced transmissions of the virus, the Gainesville area has experienced an increase in cases in our hospital. Partners in the area are seeing more hospitalizations. General King is on the ground there today speaking with leaders in the poultry industry to ensure that their workers understand the public health guidance and that we continue to work together to stop the spread.
Brian Kemp: (11:49)
Under the leadership of General Cartin, the Georgia National Guard, as you know, has worked tirelessly to assist emergency response efforts across our state. Currently there are 3,145 soldiers, airmen and state defense force personnel engaged in the COVID-19 response with infection control teams, medical support teams, food bank support, school lunch delivery, and general support teams as needs arise. Right now there are 978 personnel working in 69 infection control teams assigned to decontaminate Georgia’s 790 longterm care facilities, including nursing homes, assisted living facilities, personal care homes, community living arrangements, hospice and similar facilities. To date, these dedicated teams have provided critical support by sanitizing the facility and training staff on enhanced infectious control protocols to 710 facilities, which is 90% of George’s longterm care facility.
Brian Kemp: (13:03)
Which is 90% of George’s longterm care facilities with some that have received multiple visits. Given the heightened risk of adverse consequences for the medically fragile and elderly, this work by the guard is truly lifesaving. Their efforts have been highlighted by the Trump administration, as well as national state and local media and they have started to train other States on their practices. Their hard work as you know, does not stop here. Right now, the guard has 206 personnel and 20 medical support teams deployed to 20 hospitals in Georgia, lending a helping hand to our healthcare workforce and necessary medical care to our patients.
Brian Kemp: (13:50)
They have 190 personnel in seven hospital entry support teams which are deployed to conduct patient arrival screening in healthcare facilities. 170 soldiers are supporting eight food banks, loading and unloading shipments and packaging containers for distribution. And at the Atlanta community food bank, supporting the movement of 6 million pounds of food, the equivalent of 5 million meals. There are over 55 service members helping them with school lunch deliveries, supporting the delivery of over 137,000 meals to students just in Fulton County alone.
Brian Kemp: (14:33)
Soldiers are also providing support to the department of public health with drivers and couriers at 13 of their 18 regional health offices, logistics support at their warehouse and reinforcements at the test sites. The guard is supporting Walmart’s mobile testing initiative in Richmond County today and will support them in Milledgeville and Tifton in the coming days. Personnel are providing reinforcement at nine specimen collection sites in conjunction with Augusta university covering Albany, Moultrie, Decatur, Versai, two sites in Atlanta, Kennesaw, Mauro, and Sparta.
Brian Kemp: (15:16)
As I mentioned last week, the guard has galvanized 10 mobile strike teams for test specimen collection, focusing on nursing homes, first responders, law enforcement, and mental health facilities across our state. They are also supporting our partnership with Augusta university at their command center with 49 personnel.
Brian Kemp: (15:38)
I want to applaud the brave men and women who have answered this call to service, who are fighting the virus with every fiber of their being.
Brian Kemp: (15:49)
Speaking of local heroes, we have a great resource for our frontline healthcare workers. I don’t think there’s any doubt that they are our heroes of today. The Battelle de-containment system is set up right here in Atlanta. The Battelle de-containment system is a self contained device that uses vapor, hydrogen peroxide to decontaminate N95 masks. This is a big piece of equipment. It consists of eight, 20 foot shipping containers, and starting today it can decontaminate 80,000 N95 masks per day, 80,000 masks per day. Each mask can also be decontaminated up to 20 times. This system will give us the ability to recycle critical supplies and it is currently available to all medical facilities, longterm care facilities as well as first responders.
Brian Kemp: (16:58)
I want to encourage these facilities and others to reach out to Jima and take advantage of this resource as they continue to work on the front lines of our fight with COVID-19.
Brian Kemp: (17:13)
Over the last several days, many have written about Georgia’s plan to slowly reopen the businesses shuttered by our shelter in place order, and many more have written about the president’s insight and advice on our game plan. Rest assured, the president and I share a common goal and that is to protect both the lives and the livelihoods of Georgians, as well as the American people. We had another great call today with the president, the vice president, members of the administration, the national task force and the nations governors. I want to continue to applaud the president’s leadership during these difficult times, and we are grateful for the resources that they are providing as we work to keep Georgians safe and ensure a bright and promising future in every corner of our state.
Brian Kemp: (18:08)
And while it is easy to get discouraged or lost in a lot of noise, I have found inspiration and encouragement from small business owners who are able to safely open their doors and serve their customers in their city or their town. I know this situation can test your patients as well as your faith, but please know that we stand behind you.
Brian Kemp: (18:33)
Over the weekend, I also heard from doctors in our state concerned about patient health and wellbeing. Given the shelter in place order and the need to social distance, many would chronic disease or medical needs have avoided the doctor’s office or the pharmacy. If you have a medical need, please take advantage of telehealth opportunities that many doctors have embraced during this pandemic. At the very least, please call your physician and check in and see if it is a good time to schedule your appointment. Make the necessary arrangements today to ensure a healthy tomorrow.
Brian Kemp: (19:17)
I want to close today with a call for a renewed unity. These are unprecedented times in our state and our nation, but we are making great progress. We have accomplished much, but there is still a long way to go. There are differing opinions on how best to tackle the COVID-19 virus and how we reopen parts of our economy, the path forward to ensure a safer, stronger and more prosperous future for our state. But I can promise you this, there is more that unites us than divides us. We all want to protect our families and our neighbors. We all want to emerge from this pandemic safe and victorious. So please stand with us in the days, weeks and months ahead. Encourage your loved ones and your friends to continue to follow the executive orders and the social distancing guidance. Find a way to support your local business and take care of those neighbors that are in need.
Brian Kemp: (20:25)
Use social media to share important updates and highlight the many good things that we have going on around us. And I would ask all Georgians to do as I do every day, and to do as we did earlier today in this same Georgia state Capitol, and that is to pray. To pray for the state’s health leaders who are helping us chart the course forward, pray for those who are on the front lines of our healthcare facilities, our first responders and many others as well as those that are supporting them while they’re working long hours away from home. Pray for all our elected officials, from the president, state officials to local officials who are doing what is right to help the people of this country and this state.
Brian Kemp: (21:21)
I urge you to continue to follow the guidelines and especially, especially let’s continue to take care of the most vulnerable to this evil disease. And if we do, I am confident that together we will defeat the Coronavirus and our best days will remain ahead.
Brian Kemp: (21:43)
With that, I will take some questions.
Blaine Alexander: (21:47)
Thank you so much. Blaine Alexander with NBC news. Sir, you questioned about the decision to reopen. You mentioned president Trump twice last week, the president criticized the decision, said it was too soon, as have a number of governors or mayors across the state. And the state doesn’t meet the white house threshold for a recommended two week decline in cases.
Brian Kemp: (22:07)
Was that a question or an opinion?
Blaine Alexander: (22:09)
Nope, that’s a question.
Brian Kemp: (22:11)
Well, you just made a statement. You didn’t ask the question. What’s your question?
Blaine Alexander: (22:14)
Getting to the questions right now, sir, thank you so much. For those who say that the move came prematurely, that this came too soon, can you tell us specifically what data you used to determine that this was the safest choice?
Brian Kemp: (22:25)
Well, I know it may be hard for NBC news to understand this, but all the data is publicly available on the Public Health Department’s website. As I’ve said before I made those decisions in conjunction with Dr. Toomey and many, many other people following the data and there’s a lot of data that we’re following. I mentioned a lot of it today about our ramp up and testing we’re doing, about our hospital bed capacity. Just today I got a text from a hospital CEO in the Metro Atlanta area. They have 11 hospitals. They have 171 COVID patients today in 11 hospitals. That is down from 260 positive cases, which was their high. That was back on March the 31st.
Brian Kemp: (23:14)
So we’re moving forward with data and information and decisions from the local public health officials, meeting and working within the guidelines of the great plan that the president has laid out, and you’re seeing many other governors do that as well.
Brian Kemp: (23:34)
And I just want to tell you, I appreciate what the president’s doing. He said it best today, the media wants to continue to divide us during this period. But let me assure you there will be no dividing. We’re going to continue to work with administration and the president and the vice president and the task force. And he said today, “I wish the media could just see how good these calls go with the governors, about what they’re talking about doing with testing, about how three weeks ago everybody’s having a fit over ventilators and now nobody even brings it up.” And here in the state of Georgia, we got as many ventilators available today for Georgia patients and I hope we don’t need them.
Blaine Alexander: (24:18)
But sir, if I could follow up specifically what numbers on the health department website that show that the numbers [Crosstalk 00:24:23]
Brian Kemp: (24:23)
I’ll get my press team. We’re glad to share all the numbers and the data that we have available that supports the decision. And if Dr. Toomey wants to, she can come answer that question as well.
Blaine Alexander: (24:35)
Could I ask Dr. Toomey? Could I ask her about the numbers? Thank you. Dr. Toomey, Thank you so much.
Kathleen Toomey: (24:42)
I’m Kathleen Toomey, Commissioner of Public Health here. We’ve been following, moderating this data very, very closely. We have not only just been tracking cases, but also actually doing calculating what I call the Birx criteria with respect to Dr. Birx, who I know very well. And we didn’t meet the full gating criteria but we met several of them when we were approaching a plateauing, which made us feel that it would be safe to move forward because we had three things in place. We had adequate hospitalization, hospital capacity and had really augmented that considerably.
Kathleen Toomey: (25:28)
We have adequate testing capacity and I urge people who are listening to this press conference today, please go get tested. We’ve expanded the criteria, virtually anyone with any of these, even relatively mild symptoms like headache and muscle pain and other more traditional symptoms like cough and fever can come into any of our public health sites after calling ahead at the health department to get an appointment.
Kathleen Toomey: (26:02)
I had at the health department to get an appointment. Easy to get tested. We have plenty of testing capacity. And we are ramping up our contact tracing capacity. We’ve been doing contact tracing all along. We have now been working very aggressively on that. Demoed a Google app that will help us track that, and we’ll be rolling that out probably later in the week in a pilot and statewide next week.
Kathleen Toomey: (26:32)
With all these things in place and undergoing, as well as what appeared to be a plateauing of cases and meeting many of the gating criteria, we felt that it was safe to move forward with other considerations that we looked at as well. The Governor is looking at many things, not just the data we have. And I respect his right to do that, and I will work very hard to ensure that Georgians are protected and safe throughout this process.
Speaker 5: (27:03)
If I can ask you …
Governor Kemp, following up on the data, I know you’ve said many times how important that is to you in making your decisions. Late last week, Georgia Tech researchers released a model based on the data that they interpret from the State of Georgia that if Georgia reopens the way that we are opening right now across the state, there could be in July and August a second recurrence, another round of infections. What models do you see, and what do those models show you in the next few months?
Brian Kemp: (27:32)
Well, I think people need to understand that I have the same view that General Carden does. When I put him working with Dr. Toomey on testing to move the needle, as I just talked about, we’ve done that considerably, and he knows that I want him to continue to do that. But he said, “Look, all models are wrong, but they’re useful, and you have to follow them.” But whenever you take a step, your model changes. It’s like you almost get punished for taking a step depending on what model you’re looking at. So we’re not just relying on one model. We’re relying on Dr. Toomey, what her team’s seeing on the ground every day.
Brian Kemp: (28:14)
I mean, I can’t tell you how many hospital CEOs I’ve talked to this week. If you look at our numbers, if you start taking out hot spots we’ve had. I mean, Albany, Georgia has had more deaths to coronavirus than Atlanta. You would’ve never get anybody to bet on that in a million years when this first started, that they had a super-spreader issue that created a epicenter because of a big funeral long time ago before the public was really educated and we know what we know now about the virus.
Brian Kemp: (28:49)
Well, I called down there this weekend. They have hospital bed capacity at Phoebe. They’re not out of the woods yet, but their folks have learned a lot. Most of them are doing the right thing. We’re going to continue to build out the bed capacity, so if we have other issues in places in South Georgia, because in many rural parts of our state, we have small hospitals. So it doesn’t take long, especially with the limited number of ICU beds.
Brian Kemp: (29:16)
So we’re looking at all of those type things. But I would just urge people to go to our graph and our charts that are on the Department of Public Health’s website, I looked at those just an hour ago, and see for yourself what we’re seeing in our state. But as Dr. Toomey says, it doesn’t mean that we can just throw the keys back there [inaudible 00:29:38] and let them operate as usual.
Brian Kemp: (29:39)
If you hear about the stories of businesses that decided to open this week. I mean, I talked about the non-issue it was over the weekend with the number of complaints that we have because so many people were compliant. I mean, people were excited because they were calling or they were sending me pictures going, “Hey, I went to the barbershop. They only let one person in.” Homer just talked about a story. He got a haircut this weekend. The lady had the door locked. She had to open the door. She temperature checked him, made him use hand sanitizer. He was the only one that came in. And when he got done, he went out. And she said, “I got to work.” She goes, “I was fixing to lose my car.”
Brian Kemp: (30:26)
So these are tough decisions, no doubt. But we put measured steps for people that wanted to open. It was not a mandate. There’s a lot of people that have decided to wait, and I support that a hundred percent. There’s a lot of people that want to learn more about what the guidelines are and get ready, and I support that. But you also have people out there like [Peggy 00:30:49] that was fixing to lose their car. And when people get desperate like that, Dr. Toomey and I both know those outcomes are not going to be good for protecting the public.
Brian Kemp: (31:02)
So we’re better off, in my opinion, trusting people. Because I trust Georgians. They’re smart people, they’re great entrepreneurs, they’re hardworking, and they’re innovative, and it’s incredible what they’re doing to meet the guidelines. But it’s also incredible for the ones that don’t feel like they can or they can’t make it work. They’re taking the responsibility not to open. If we continue to do that, if we continue to socially distance, if we continue to not have large gatherings or neighborhood parties, then we’re going to continue on the path that we are, and we’re going to continue to get back to the new norm of moving into phase two.
I have to follow up. The shelter in place order expires Thursday. What’s going to be different Friday, May 1st across the state? How do you expect people to act and behave? And what should they comply with?
Brian Kemp: (32:03)
Well, we’re going to continue to stay in contact with the White House and the guidance the CDC is putting out, and we’ve been continuing to do that. We’re going to continue to look at our data. We’ve had two calls a day with our team, over 20 people every day, seven days a week for almost two months now. We’re going to continue to do that so we know what’s going on on the ground and see where we are. But we’re going to be making some decisions most likely in the next couple of days of what the next week, two weeks, or a month looks like based on that data. And I just haven’t made those decisions yet.
Brian Kemp: (32:44)
I’ve talked to Dr. Toomey quite a bit about that this weekend, about what things look like and what we need to continue to focus on. But one thing we know for sure, the medically fragile, our nursing home order, that’s staying in effect until May the 13th. That is that vulnerable population that we got to continue to hunker down on, watch out for, and support that industry if they have healthcare workers that go down to the virus and can’t come to work. So that is definitely staying in put. What the rest of it looks like, [John 00:07:18], we’ll have a better idea in a day or two.
Speaker 6: (33:22)
Governor, President Trump said he strongly disagreed with your stance and that he told you as much in a phone conversation last week. Did he issue you that morning? And if he’s watching this later today, what do you hope he takes from your message?
Brian Kemp: (33:34)
Well, I think the President will know something he already knows, is that I appreciate his leadership. I appreciate all that the administration has done to support our state. But we’ve been lucky in a lot of regards. We haven’t had to ask him for a lot of things. They have delivered PPE, which we needed. Thankfully, I think we got some ventilators from the federal stockpile. But we haven’t had a big ask like other states. Mainly it was just to have some in our pocket. The state has bought those as well.
Brian Kemp: (34:06)
We’re going to continue to work with them because the President and I believe in the same exact thing. We want to keep our citizens safe, and we want to reopen America to entrepreneurship and to business. I mean, he knows like I know we cannot continue this way economically. We are looking at depression-like unemployment. We are facing hardships now of trying to feed everybody, which is amazing to even think that you could have a time in our country when six, eight weeks ago we had the best economy we’ve ever had in Georgia. We had the lowest unemployment rate we’ve ever had since we started keeping records at 3.1%. We have been the best state for business eight years in a row, and it has all tumbled off a cliff like it has in every state. But we will come back, and we will come back stronger only if we stick together, continue to work together to protect people from the virus but also take measured steps to reopen the economy. And that is what we are doing.
Speaker 6: (35:16)
Governor, the first part of the question, did he tell you he strongly disagrees with your stance?
Brian Kemp: (35:19)
Well, I would just refer to you to what the President said and then what my response was. It’s pretty clear. And again, I support the President, and I’m thankful for all he’s doing. He’s shown great leadership. I’ll say this as well, and the press is never going to write this, but it is unprecedented to see what Republican and Democratic governors get up there and thank the President for, thank the Vice President for the many members of the task force that are calling the nation’s governors, working with them every day. I mean, just in the level of communication that the governors have had with this administration, it’s been amazing. I mean, it really has. And I know for me it is appreciated.
Mike Dunston: (36:07)
Hey, Governor. Mike Dunston with CBS here in Atlanta, CBS46. You said you agree with the President on how the media is dividing us. What did you mean by that?
Brian Kemp: (36:22)
Well, I think I’ll give you a good example. So all these stories about our plan to lift business registrations, and I’m not singling you out, but I’m just saying some were giving us a very hard time, thought it was irresponsible. They wrote how deadly it was. And then in a follow-up article after I did it, they said it was largely symbolic, didn’t really matter because we never really closed that many businesses to start with. Well, what is the public supposed to think? I mean, you’re speaking out of both sides of your mouth, and that’s what gets so frustrating in this. Many news organizations just report the truth, they report the facts, but then you have some that the truth and the facts were one way before you do something and it’s completely different after.
Mike Dunston: (37:14)
So shouldn’t you just call out those specific organizations rather than just say the media in general?
Brian Kemp: (37:20)
Well, that’s a point that’s well taken.
Mike Dunston: (37:24)
One other question for you. When it comes to reopening things, you talked about bars and nightclubs and amusement parks staying closed. I guess another thing is some people have been complaining that why is the governor’s office or why is the Governor’s Mansion not open for tours? Do you foresee a time when those will all be back open, and how soon? You kind of mentioned it a little bit before, getting with Dr. Toomey, but any ideas on that?
Brian Kemp: (37:50)
Well, I certainly hope the Governor’s Mansion will be open to tours sooner rather than later, but we’re going to continue to follow the guidance that our team was putting together in conjunction with Dr. Toomey. But the fact of the matter is the people that give the tours at the Governor’s Mansion, the docents, are medically fragile and very elderly people. So I don’t think that’d be a good idea to put them, as well as the trustees that are Corrections inmates that work at the Capitol as well, in an environment where they may test positive and then take it back to a large facility. Those are the kind of things that we are trying to avoid.
Mike Dunston: (38:31)
Brian Kemp: (38:31)
Tyrik Wynn: (38:34)
Governor Kemp, Tyrik Wynn with Tyrik On The Move. My question to you is when you made the decision to reopen some of these businesses on lots of people took to social media, they didn’t agree with the decision, and they said that this decision puts lives in danger. What do you have to say to that?
Brian Kemp: (38:54)
Look, every decision I’ve made I’ve had people criticizing me and people praising me. If I hadn’t reopened businesses, the same thing would’ve …
Brian Kemp: (39:03)
If I hadn’t reopened businesses, the same thing would’ve happened. So I have great appreciation for that. People can speak their mind. I know there’s a lot of different opinions. I would just say though, I didn’t order anybody to open their business. I didn’t order anybody to go patronize any business. I simply gave people the opportunity that literally were on the verge, many of them have losing everything that they got. And I’m thinking about that. Where are we going to house all those people if they get kicked out of their apartment? How are we going to get those people to work when we do reopen if they’ve had their car repossessed? These are tough decisions. So it wasn’t a mandate, it simply gave people the opportunity to reopen. And I will tell you, I’m very proud of those small business people.
Brian Kemp: (39:54)
There’s people that have been thinking about this for weeks on how they were going to be open just waiting for this day. And from what I saw over the weekend, I mean look, I knew the media was going to be out there Friday morning and they were. I mean they were out there at barbershops at 7:00 AM Friday morning because I had people calling and telling me. And we had no bad news on Friday because when they went out there, they saw the people doing the proper procedures to protect themselves and to protect their customers. But you also saw people that were out there because the demand was there. I mean I heard a story about somebody that was cutting hair at a salon and they were bragging at how much people were tipping them because the people getting that haircut, they knew. They knew these people hadn’t gotten a paycheck in a long time and they knew these people probably hadn’t gotten any kind of unemployment check yet. And that is what our citizens have the opportunity to do. They don’t have to do it, but they have the opportunity.
Speaker 7: (41:04)
I do have a followup to that. Were you surprised by the number of businesses that stayed closed that were allowed to open?
Brian Kemp: (41:11)
No, I was not. And I want to thank those folks. If they don’t think it’s the right time, they don’t need open. If they can weather the storm, they don’t need to open. But I think the good example is the restaurant industry that’s opening today. I have a friend of mine that opened and he called me, well he texted me and he said, “Thank you for giving us the opportunity. We had a very light day.” He said, “What people don’t realize, it’s going to take us a while to build this back up.”
Brian Kemp: (41:42)
So I don’t think you’re going to see… I mean, there may be some places where you see a crowd and lines forming and waiting. But you’re seeing that for some takeout, right? I mean this is unchartered territory. We had never done this before, but we also have people on the verge of losing everything. And when that happens, people do desperate things. And if people are doing desperate things in this world that we in, that is very dangerous for the spread. I would rather ask our people to comply with the… I mean if you look at these measures, if you actually read the almost 30 page executive order and the requirements, I mean it’s not easy and it’s a little expensive. And people that are doing it in hair salons and barbershops, I’m sure that they need those extra tips because it’s costing them more to operate this way. But it is giving them opportunity because as the president said and as I know as a small business guy for 30 years, there’s going to be businesses that we saw before this that we won’t see after and that will take a heavy toll on our local communities as well as our state. And I know that firsthand.
Governor, you mentioned something earlier about the poultry industry. We know Georgia is the number one poultry producer, I believe in the world. What specific steps are being taken to protect that industry? We heard some from the, I believe it was the CEO of Tyson Foods who was really worried about a break in the supply chain because of outbreaks at some of his plants in other parts of the country. You said that General King was going there. Have there been any issues in any of these plans and what specific steps will the state take in trying to stop them?
Brian Kemp: (43:26)
Yeah, I may let General Carden… Let me just kind of answer you first there Richard. But I mean look, it is concerning. I’ve followed the stories across other meat packing plants and other businesses across the state. We obviously being the number one poultry producer in the world have many of those businesses in Georgia. We’ve been working with the association, Dr. Toomey, you may want to speak about this as well, to help them with best practices following the guidelines. I think they’ve done a lot of things in their plant. I think what we’re seeing in Gainesville and the reason we sent General King out there today is we’ve got to get the community to buy into this.
Brian Kemp: (44:07)
That community, they’re very hard working and I’ve worked with them for almost 40 years. They are going to go to work unless they just absolutely can’t. And that is their culture of being very hardworking people. And this is a time where if they feel like they’ve had a little bit of a cold or one of these seven or eight symptoms that I read out earlier, they probably could get through the day but it is not smart for them to do that. We’ve got to, I think, educate them. I don’t know that the issue is with the plant as much as it is is just in the community when you have somebody that’s in the community that gets infected or somebody in the plant’s infected and they take it back to the community. So that’s what we’re trying to educate and stop. But I think General Carden may have something on the plant.
General Carden: (45:07)
Yeah. I visited one of our specimen points of collection earlier today and had a brief conversation with General Toomey and we talked to one of the public health directors. In Dawson County specifically the poultry industry obviously is big in that part of the state and we have mobile testing capability that Dr. Toomey asked us to generate to support the Department of Public Health and obviously at her behest we can move that capability. Whether it’s critical infrastructure workers or whether it’s the meat packing industry, wherever the public health leadership tells us to direct that capability we’re obviously prepared to do so.
Dr. Toomey: (45:49)
I have to point out that two of my colleagues got a haircut and I obviously didn’t so that just reinforces what the governor said that just because things are opened doesn’t mean you need to go out. I am still heading warnings. But I’m very proud of the work that we have done in public health, both with the poultry industry as well as blueberry farmers and others in the agricultural industry.
Dr. Toomey: (46:14)
Our health directors have reached out proactively to work with these in these factories and to educate about the use of masks or educate about social distancing in areas where the workers may take breaks and almost uniformly they reported back to me that they are so impressed with how well these guidelines are being followed. When they do have a positive case, the cases are quickly identified and often tested either by public health or as General Carden said by one of his mobile teams. We help identify sites for isolation and potential quarantine for others. But the fact that they were very open to following guidelines and very open to this education in a proactive way I think speaks volumes about how well we have been proactively reaching out to ensure the safety of the workers but also for the state as a whole.
Speaker 8: (47:22)
Governor, in your remarks earlier, you encouraged more people to come forward for testing. Do we have unused capacity for testing at this point? What is our daily testing capacity today?
Brian Kemp: (47:35)
Yeah, I may let General King and Dr. Toomey answer that too. But just from a big picture perspective, that was something that I’ve learned in the last really 24 hours because we have been pushing so hard. General Carden’s order was to use every test we have every day and basically just break the system if he could and then we’d figure out how we get more tests to give because we as I said needed two weeks ago, I think it was, certainly 10 days ago we had to do a better job with our testing. And as you can see from the numbers, we are now doing that. But just before, well I guess it was twice a day on our, I guess it was the afternoon call, I mean General Carden, we talked about this, but we had one test site we only had 15 people show up.
Brian Kemp: (48:22)
So we’re going to try some different things to make the public more aware. I talked to Dr. Toomey about this as well this afternoon about whether we need start targeting things. But I’ll let both of them speak to that. But that is true. I mean, we need Georgians if you are feeling bad, if you had those symptoms that I’ve went over, that body pain, cough, fever, all those seven or eight new criteria that’s out, you need to go and get the AU app or go on their website or call that number and let us find you a location close to where…