Apr 1, 2020
Governor Brian Kemp Georgia COVID-19 Briefing Transcript: Shelter-in-Place Ordered, Schools Closed for the School Year
Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia held an April 1 press conference on coronavirus. He ordered a statewide shelter-in-place and closed schools for the rest of the school year. Read the full transcript of his news conference here.
What is Rev?
Governor Kemp: (00:00)
Adjunct General Tom Carden, Georgia Emergency Management. General.
Governor Kemp: (00:06)
Good afternoon everyone. I apologize for running just a few minutes late. Thank you so much for being with us today. As usual, I have the Public Health Commissioner, Dr. Kathleen Toomey, Adjunct General Tom Carden, Georgia Emergency Management, Homeland Security Director, Homer Bryson. All of the people operating under the direction of these leaders standing behind me are truly remarkable, including them. They’ve been working, as you can imagine, long hours with very little sleep. I also want to thank all those hardworking Georgians under their direction that are committed to the health and well being of our citizens and thank them for how hard they’re working as well. We are blessed to have the best and brightest on the front lines of this fight. As of noon today, we now have 4,638 cases in Georgia spanning 139 counties with 139 deaths due to the COVID-19. Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to the families, loved ones and communities of those that we have lost to this terrible virus.
Governor Kemp: (01:17)
So far the state lab has processed 2100 tests and commercial vendors have now processed a little over 18,000. As many of you know, testing in Georgia has increased rapidly over the last couple of weeks that our capacity has been limited due to the number of reliable and available tests. And as many of you here have reported, competition among states for access to commercial labs is obviously at an all time high. Testing is an important tool for identifying cases earlier, targeting hot spots in our state with more resources, developing models, and providing timely information to the public. These tests are vital to our frontline workers, Georgia’s doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists, our first responders and law enforcement, as well as the medically fragile populations, including those living in longterm care facilities and the elderly. In short, tests define the battlefield and help us to develop a strategy to win this war. Yesterday I was proud to announce plans to quickly and dramatically increase the availability of testing for COVID-19 in our state. This proactive and timely initiative is leveraging laboratory resources under the University System of Georgia, the Georgia Public Health Laboratory and Emory University to rapidly enhance surge capacity. This is a unique public-private partnership which was announced and set into motion yesterday for us to start processing over 3000 samples a day. As you know from the beginning, we have used data, science and the advice of health care professionals to determine our preparedness and relief efforts. These new testing numbers will provide a better picture of COVID-19’s impact on our state and continue to inform our decisions as we move forward. I want to pause just a moment and thank the University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley, Dr. Toomey and their respective staff for their hard work on this important partnership.
Governor Kemp: (03:38)
We want to assure Georgians in every part of our state that expanding testing remains a top priority for me as well as those that are standing behind me today. We all know that the status quo is unacceptable and I certainly appreciate their innovation. We will continue to innovate and push so all Georgians who need a test for COVID-19 can do so in a safe and convenient way. Since forming the coronavirus task force in February, we have announced several orders to keep our families as well as our community safe. We are in this fight together and I want to share, once again, how we can flatten the infection curve in Georgia. To stop the spread, we must practice social distancing. To mitigate the risks, it is best that you stay home. For the most part, Georgians are heeding this advice and I couldn’t be more grateful for that, especially in the Metro area.
Governor Kemp: (04:40)
As you can see, traffic has lessened dramatically. We have folks teleworking, attending church online, getting takeout or delivery for meals and postponing social events for the greater good. These are personal choices and they are not easy, but when Georgians listened to the guidance provided and follow the orders issued, they are actively joining the fight against this deadly disease. When hardworking Georgians limit their travel, limit their interaction with others and limit their activities, they are buying us more time to get additional hospital beds ready, order supplies, and continue to prepare for more positive cases. All of us know that this fight is won at the community level, not at this state capitol behind us. To win this war, we have to hunker down and continue to chop a lot of wood. I was really taken by the president’s coronavirus press briefing yesterday and what Dr. Birx had to say and she echoed these truths.
Governor Kemp: (05:52)
It will be the hard work of people in cities, towns and communities across our nation following the advice of healthcare experts and making change to their daily lives to fulfill a higher calling. And that is what we are seeing in Georgia. As you know, our people are determined and they are resilient. We will accept nothing short of a victory over this virus. I know full well, we have many challenges ahead of us, but we have plenty of opportunities as well. I want to encourage my fellow Georgians to hang in there. I know that you’re tired of this. I know you want to return to business as usual, but we must first overcome the obstacles that we have in our path. By doing this, we will get through this together. There is no question that these are unprecedented times and state officials are taking historic measures to meet the needs of the healthcare providers, hospitals, patients, and communities across our state. Teams at the state operation center and the national stockpile warehouse are working around the clock to identify needs, strengthen the supply chain, ensure that we have a plan for any scenario. As of this morning, we had 3,520 medical surgical beds, 450 beds and 1006 ventilators available in our hospitals across the state. According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, Georgia will reach peak hospital capacity on April 23rd. That’s nearly three weeks from today. This model assumes that Georgians continue to abide by the state’s orders and use social distancing methods through the end of May. These numbers, as you know, are updated on a daily basis and we are continuing to monitor capacity. State officials, I can assure you, are working closely with Georgia Hospital Association, the ambulatory surgery centers to take a full inventory of beds and ventilators.
Governor Kemp: (08:11)
We also are spotting trends to prepare for the days and weeks ahead. So far, we have purchased four medical pods, which are basically steel shipping containers that have been converted to mobile units with beds as well as equipment. Each unit offers 20 to 24 beds with a nursing station to treat patients as they arrive. These will be a state-owned asset that we’ll be able to quickly to deploy to hard hit areas. We have submitted a request of FEMA to staff these pods using military medical providers. To expand current bed capacity, I have temporarily suspended certificate-of-need laws. Now Georgia healthcare administrators are reconfiguring existing hospital wings or embarking on new construction to address the looming concern. Commissioner Frank Berry with the Georgia Department of Community Health is working with multiple hospital systems to reopen closed facilities for use. I want to take this opportunity to give a big shout out for Phoebe Putney, HCA Healthcare and Piedmont for going above and beyond the call of duty. These systems have engaged the state to reopen several facilities and bring hospital beds online as we prepare for the potential patient surge.
Governor Kemp: (09:39)
As many of you know, Dougherty County is one of the hardest hit areas in our state. To date, we have shipped necessary supplies and plan more shipments based on the needs of Phoebe Putney System in the future. The Department of Public Health has deployed an epidemiology team in coordination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We have also deployed two National Guard medic teams to this county. The two guard units are assisting existing staff at Phoebe and a nearby nursing home facility on everything from administrative needs to medical treatment. As General Carden will explain, these units are brand new. They were created specifically for this purpose. That is an incredible testament to General Carden and his team that they were able to identify, mobilize, and successfully deploy these soldiers in such a short period of time.
Governor Kemp: (10:41)
As reported, the state has worked closely with local health officials to establish more bed capacity at Phoebe North and provide staffing and equipment necessary to relieve Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital. We expect Phoebe North to be completed and ready to treat patients as early as next week, the first part of next week. I’ve had several conversations with Scott Steiner, the CEO of Phoebe Putney, multiple times over the last week, as well as Dougherty County Commission Chair Chris Cohilis, Lee County Commission Chair Billy Mathis, the mayor, and many other local leaders. We continue to all do everything in our power to ensure that Dougherty County and surrounding communities have the resources and support that they desperately need in this crisis. As I mentioned a moment ago, the Georgia National Guard has identified new teams to replicate the units sent to Albany and Dougherty County at similar hotspots around our state.
Governor Kemp: (11:44)
And just yesterday, the Georgia Guard announced another innovative way to stop the spread of coronavirus across our state. This virus is deadly, as you know, but it’s even more dangerous when left unchecked in a longterm care facility. To assist the operations and managers of these facilities to keep their patients and residents safe, we will activate over 100 guardsmen to deploy to any longterm care facility, assisted living facility or nursing home that has COVID-19 patients. These troops will implement infection-control protocols and enhance sanitation methods to dramatically reduce COVID-19 exposure amongst vulnerable residents. Going forward, I cannot overstate the importance of nursing home facilities and longterm care homes following the public health guidelines. Our task force is in regular communication with the Georgia Healthcare Association to make sure these facilities are receiving accurate, up to date information from the Department of Public Health and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Governor Kemp: (12:59)
In the weeks to come, the Georgia National Guard units will have boots on the ground to assist those operations and continue to ensure we’re protecting our most vulnerable citizens. As I previously mentioned, on March 23rd I issued an executive order banning gatherings of more than 10 people unless they are at least six feet between each persons at all times and requiring medically fragile Georgians to shelter in place through April 6, 2020. I’ve signed several executive orders lifting restrictions on getting more doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and pharmacy technicians to work, closing K through 12 schools through April the 24th and raising the amount of unemployment benefits available to Georgians facing financial hardship. I’ve also authorized the state board of education to waive certain rules, regulations, policies, procedures and provisions to assist in the state’s response to COVID-19. We’re also allowing the use of real time audio-visual technology to assist in notarizing real estate documents and among other actions related to future revenue, I’ve directed the Commissioner of Revenue to implement waivers for conservation use, value assessment and Forest Land Protection Act applications.
Governor Kemp: (14:28)
I’ve transferred additional emergency funds to pay for more supplies and equipment and I continue to appreciate the support of the General Assembly, the Speaker, the Lieutenant Governor for their support and emergency funding in the amended budget. All of those measures have helped us prepare for the weeks ahead as we fight this pandemic facing our entire country. We are constantly reviewing the data, the modeling and the science. I’d like to thank GEMA director Bryson for completing the isolation site at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in a very short period of time. We currently have five patients at the facility which have a maximum capacity of 40 individuals. Like the site at Hard Labor Creek State Park, this facility is for patients that are not able to isolate themselves and we’ll continue to have this resource available for individuals that need it. As we continue to fight this virus, our office is receiving reports that are concerning and deserve the public’s immediate attention. We have been told by one area Atlanta hospital that they are seeing a 15% increase in domestic violence cases at their facilities. This is disturbing and alarming and it cannot be tolerated. If you or someone you know needs help, I would ask you to call the Georgia Domestic Violence Hotline. That number is 1-800-334-2836. Again, that’s 1-800-334-2836 for the Georgia Domestic Violence Hotline. We are also seeing a reduction in reports of child abuse, likely a consequence of our educators not having as much face time with Georgia students. Teachers and administrators are often the first ones to see the signs of abuse and now with schools closed we must remain vigilant about this problem and continue to work to remedy it. If you are a child in crisis or know of someone who needs help, I would urge you to reach out to the Georgia Department of Family and Children’s Services at 1-855-G-A-CHILD. That’s 1-855-422- 4453. And finally-
Governor Kemp: (17:02)
… four, five, three. And finally, my office has received dozens of calls and emails from many hardworking Georgians out of work. Many who have had their hours cut back or business owners that unfortunately have had to close, and as someone that has spent my entire career in the private sector, I know the economic impact of this global pandemic.
Governor Kemp: (17:25)
Georgians have to feed and clothe their families. They have to pay rent, utilities, and buy gas for their vehicles. The reality is that a government check will only pay for so much and go so far. Hundreds of thousands of Georgians are facing financial ruin because of this virus.
Governor Kemp: (17:48)
As many of you know, I was a builder and developer during the Great Recession. Literally in those days, we lived hour to hour, day to day, and week to week. I have been there before trying to support my family. It is a frightening thing to say the least. So for those waitresses who have lost their job or small business owner who doesn’t know if they’ll make payroll this week or the hourly worker who barely made rent today, I hear you, I am praying for you, and I will promise you we continue to work hard every day for you.
Governor Kemp: (18:26)
I want to thank Commissioner Mark Butler. He has done a great job streamlining the unemployment benefit process, and we were among one of the first states in the Southeast to be approved for the expanded small business administration loans. We have also extended the state tax filing deadline to match the federal deadline and issued guidance to workers looking for hourly jobs to get through the next few weeks.
Governor Kemp: (18:54)
We will continue to do whatever it takes to help keep our families safe and ensure a strong and prosperous future. These are difficult moments as a nation and as a state, but these times, as you have seen, bring out the best in us. They remind us of the good that still exists in this great state and world which we live in.
Governor Kemp: (19:19)
I want to thank the many, many people in our business community who have stepped up to do their part to fight COVID-19. Georgia’s own Home Depot is donating millions of dollars in PPE and other products, prioritizing fulfillment orders to hospitals, healthcare providers, and first responders. Honeywell, an industry technology manufacturer who has a hub here in Atlanta is ramping up production of N95 masks from a new facility in Rhode Island and another one in Arizona that will come online in May. They’ve already doubled their production of N95 masks and within the next 90 days they will have five times the capacity to produce these critical healthcare supplies.
Governor Kemp: (20:08)
In local communities across the Peach State, we’ve seen small business owners completely repurpose their staff and production lines to make other materials that are in short supply. One is not far from here. Old Fourth Ward Distillery has begun producing hand sanitizer and TSG Resolute in Americus, Georgia has a partnership between Coca-Cola and Georgia Tech here in Atlanta, and businesses are finding ways to innovate to manufacture protective surgical shields and masks for healthcare workers who are on the front lines every day.
Governor Kemp: (20:50)
As you know, over the past few days, the White House has issued new federal guidelines and a timeline for mitigating the spread of coronavirus. Public health officials are discouraging large gatherings, advising the elderly and anyone with underlying health problems to stay at home, encouraging people to telework and keeping kids from school until April 31st.
Governor Kemp: (21:15)
Georgia’s order reflected the guidance and direction for President Trump and his coronavirus task force. I have empowered numerous agencies and officials to enforce them. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources will limit gatherings with officials patrolling bottles of … excuse me, bodies of water, as well as campgrounds. They are monitoring coves where people tend to congregate, and if necessary, they’re using bullhorns and other methods to get people to disband.
Governor Kemp: (21:50)
Officials will approach people and demand compliance with our orders for the wellbeing of all our citizens in our state. Local officials are also working hard to ensure compliance with local directives, which vary by city and county across our state. The Georgia State Patrol is prepared to take appropriate action to ensure full compliance, no exceptions.
Governor Kemp: (22:17)
The reality is if you do not comply, you are violating the law and you will be facing stiff penalties. Even worse, even worse, you’re literally endangering the lives of those around you, your loved ones, and all fellow Georgians. In Georgia, the safety and wellbeing of each citizen comes first. We will do what is necessary if people fail to comply.
Governor Kemp: (22:48)
Thousands of Georgians have used the power of social media to tell people about these orders as well as to hold people accountable. I would like everyone to keep doing that, folks. It has been a huge help to us. To all of those people who have reported noncompliant businesses and organizations to the COVID-19 hotline, thank you. We are following up on these complaints and have had a great reaction from companies to do what is right for their employees and the people they are serving.
Governor Kemp: (23:21)
Many of our state’s most beloved brands out there are setting an example for others, like Home Depot, Chick-fil-A, and many others. We appreciate their leadership during these very difficult moments. I would encourage everyone to continue to stay safe, enjoy your time with your family, and continue to follow the directives to mitigate the spread of this virus. Do your part to urge your friends, neighbors, and coworkers to do the same.
Governor Kemp: (23:53)
In keeping with our promise to let data and experts guide our decision-making, I am announcing another measured strategic step forward. As you know, over the past 48 hours, the modeling and data has dramatically changed for Georgia and many other states around the country. The CDC has announced that individuals can be infected and begin to spread coronavirus earlier than previously thought even if they have no symptoms.
Governor Kemp: (24:24)
From a public health standpoint, this is a revelation and a game changer. In addition, new models show that Georgia will need more time to prepare for hospital surge capacity, and while we are making excellent progress with our team, we have got to be more aggressive. For those reasons and in accordance with Dr. Toomey’s recommendation, I will sign an executive order today closing K-12 public schools for the rest of the school year.
Governor Kemp: (24:56)
I want to stress that online learning will continue. I want to thank all of the educators and superintendents that have stayed in touch with us through this process to make the best of a tough situation. We will continue to work with them on the path forward. Tomorrow I will sign a statewide shelter-in-place order, which will go into effect on Friday and run through April 13th, 2020. This date is in line with our public health emergency order.
Governor Kemp: (25:32)
Dr. Toomey and I will continue to work day and night to finalize the order to make sure it keeps our citizens healthy and protected in every zip code across our state. We are taking action to protect our hospitals, to help our medical providers, and prepare for the patient surge that we know is coming. This action will ensure uniformity across jurisdictions for Georgia sheltering in place, and help families and businesses be able to comply with these provisions.
Governor Kemp: (26:08)
We will publish the order tomorrow and issue detailed guidance so Georgians can get prepared. We will continue, as I said, to monitor the data and make sure that we make adjustments as needed, keeping members of the public informed every step of the way.
Governor Kemp: (26:28)
When I announced my campaign for governor three years ago today, I told a crowded room of supporters in Cobb County that there would be difficult days ahead for us, but that I would remember Joshua 1:9, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged. The Lord your God will be with you wherever you may go.” Years later, know that I still believe that with my entire heart.
Governor Kemp: (26:57)
Doctors, nurses, medical staff, be strong and courageous as you have been. To our first responders, everyone else on the ground fighting this fight from a medical perspective, truck drivers, grocery store workers, food delivery workers, be strong and courageous. Mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers, be strong and courageous. Hardworking Georgians from every corner of our state, now is the time to fight and continue to be strong and courageous. We are in this together. We’re going to win this together and we’re not going to leave anyone alone, so be strong and courageous.
Governor Kemp: (27:42)
Thank you all and God bless you, and I’m now going to ask Dr. Toomey to come up and give you an update from her end. Thank you. Dr. Toomey?
Dr. Toomey: (27:50)
Thank you, sir. Thank you very much. It’s hard to believe that it was just about a month ago we first met to announce the first two cases of COVID-19 in Georgia. At that time, those cases were due to travel, and we recognized that we had to address the situation. Since those first two cases were recognized, we have seen a change in the pattern of transmission in our state, from what was related to travel has now become in many parts of our state, widespread community transmission, and recognizing that we feel the time is appropriate to take very aggressive community mitigation measures to address spread.
Dr. Toomey: (28:40)
Even in those areas with relatively few cases there’s still moderate transmission and we can’t let the fact that relatively few cases are in an area. We have not been testing everybody. We have been testing only those who have symptoms and the and those who are the most ill, and now we recognize what was, as governor pointed out, for us, a game changer in how our strategy to fight COVID has unfolded.
Dr. Toomey: (29:09)
We realize now that individuals may be spreading the virus and not even realize they have infection. As many as one in four people with coronavirus don’t realize they have infection because they have no symptoms whatsoever. And even if symptoms begin, you can transmit it earlier than expected. And so we felt that the time was now to take some more aggressive measures. As you have heard, we have now in the thousands of cases. We have 47 long-term care facilities with outbreaks we’re investigating. We have outbreaks related to prisons and jails. We have had at least five outbreaks that we know of related to church gatherings and more related to funerals.
Dr. Toomey: (29:59)
And so every possible situation where people are in a congregate setting, are gathered together can be a potential site for transmission, and so we really ask everyone to think about how we can work together with you in your community. As we’ve said so many times before, not only protect yourselves and your family, but please take responsibility for your community as well because it will be your actions that protect the community as a whole.
Dr. Toomey: (30:33)
We had said before, don’t go out if you’re ill, but now we’re saying, please stay home and don’t go into settings where you could expose others until we have a chance to stop this ongoing transmission in our communities. Our goal, which you have heard from the governor and from others, is to try to stop transmission so that we don’t overwhelm our hospitals. We’re trying to ensure that other cities in Georgia, like Athens, like Macon, like Savannah, do not become like Albany, which now is fighting the worst fight of any place in Georgia. It has among the highest rates of COVID-19 in the country and in the world.
Dr. Toomey: (31:20)
And so I just want to thank everybody in advance for their cooperation, for their respect for each other and their families and their communities. And most of all, I want to thank from the bottom of my heart all the medical personnel in the hospitals, in the communities, healthcare workers, and my own public health staff who have been working night and day to try to fight this virus. And together, we will win. And thank you very much.
Governor Kemp: (31:56)
Well thank you, Dr. Toomey. Now I’ll let General Carden give y’all an update on the many activities of the Georgia National Guard. General?
General Carden: (32:04)
Thank you Governor. Just to give you all a brief update about the Georgia National Guard and what we’re doing in the COVID-19 response, we’ve developed and deployed 13 medical support teams to the region and coordinating hospitals across the state of Georgia, as the governor mentioned earlier. We’re in the process now of building and deploying infection control teams to assist in long-term facilities, assisted livings, and nursing homes. We’re manning seven food banks to make sure that Georgians are fed. We’re supporting the Georgia Emergency Management Agency’s isolation facilities, and we’re providing logistics support to the Department of Public Health.
General Carden: (32:39)
I’ll tell you all what I tell our soldiers, airmen, and members of the state defense force. This is when we live our values. I’m so very proud to be part of this team and to serve the state of Georgia in any way that I can, and I’m very proud of the men and women, our first responders, our healthcare workers, and those who wear the nation’s uniform, who are getting after this fight against this invisible enemy. And I agree with the governor and Dr. Toomey, there’s no doubt in my mind that we’re going to prevail. Thank you all very much.
Speaker 2: (33:08)
Folks, we’re going to open up for questions. Like I said, just use the mic back here. We’ll start off with Greg.
Governor, can you hear me okay? Governor, there’s been a lot of officials, politicians, mayors, county commissioners who have been asking for this step for a very long time. What was it that led you to take this step today? What do you have to say to them about why it took this long? And secondly, will you also be calling for a delay in the May 19th primary?
Governor Kemp: (33:38)
All right. I’ll try to remember all those questions you asked me, Greg. First of all on the election, the attorneys that I’ve talked to, I don’t have the authority under this order to delay an election. Obviously I know there’s been a lot of talk about that. As you can imagine, I haven’t been focused on that myself, we’ve got our hands full in the COVID-19 fight. I think it’s the reason I’m taking this-
Governor Kemp: (34:03)
I think is the reason I’m taking this action. It’s like I’ve continued to tell people I’m following the data. I’m following the advice of Dr. Toomey. Her and I both mentioned in our remarks, finding out that this virus is now transmitting before people see signs. So what we’ve been telling people from directives from the CDC for weeks now that if you start feeling bad, stay home. Those individuals could have been infecting people before they ever felt bad. Well, we didn’t know that until the last 24 hours. And as Dr. Toomey told me, she goes, this is a game changer for us. And I had been listening to her advice. I think the other measures that we’d taken previously, if you would look at our order and the things that we did, ordering every business to adhere to strict social distancing guidelines, shelter in place for the elderly, or the medically fragile.
Governor Kemp: (34:59)
And putting a ban on the large gatherings. If you compare that to other states that had shelter in place but had all kinds of exemptions and exceptions and essential businesses. We had a strong order as anybody in the country. I think the issue is we still continue to have people that are not taking this seriously. I’m very thankful to those Georgians that we have that have, literally been staying home with their families unless they were going to their place of employment. I had people texting me all over the weekend that are in the construction industry saying we have implemented social distancing on our job sites. We’re doing our part, and I know there’s many people that have done that, grueling decisions by small business owners that I’ve read about that had to close a piece of restaurant because their customers wouldn’t comply with what they were trying to do.
Governor Kemp: (35:53)
So for the good of the public, they shut it down. That had to be a grueling decision for those people. I’m very thankful for the federal support that we’ve gotten from the president, the vice president, our congressional delegation with the unanimous support of the Senate stimulus bill. I know that money will begin flowing quickly. That’s going to be very helpful to people that have lost their jobs or have limited hours. The SBA loan process, our local banks and many other people including our team are working very hard to put that information together to get that in the works very quickly. So I think all of those things are going to help.
Governor Kemp: (36:32)
But as I said earlier, we’ve been following the data and I’ve been following the advice of the task force and the health officials and there’s been all kinds of models and different things that we’re looking at. But I think this new model that we’re following every day based on guidance on what the president and Dr. Burks and Dr. Foushee said last night, it’s going to be very helpful for the states as we move forward.
Speaker 3: (36:54)
Speaker 4: (36:56)
Governor once again, what are the dates of the order? And what will be different under this order compared with what we’re already under? And how are you going to enforce it using the state patrol and other law enforcement means?
Governor Kemp: (37:08)
We’re definitely going to be enforcing it with state law enforcement and other people that I have the ability to deputize under the power of the public health emergency order. Exactly how that looks like, it’s something that we’re going to be… I mean we’re going to have a lot of information in this order. That’s one of the things that I think is really hard about a shelter in places is going to take a lot more, I think detailed in the order than what we had before. I’ve had concerns about that confusing the public, but at this point I think it’s the right thing to do and more rely on Dr. Toomey to help me write that. The rest of the night and in the morning we’ll have the details in the order. It’ll go through our public health emergency order of April 13th.
Speaker 4: (37:54)
And just to follow up. So you anticipate there will be in this detailed order, some exceptions of grocery stores, pharmacies, things like that?
Governor Kemp: (38:02)
Yeah, I mean, look, people have to eat, we have to continue to process our food supply. We have to have pharmacies open. We have to have Georgia based companies that are making PPE, medical supplies. And I’ve heard from a lot of these people, I mean these are hard things to figure out. Just like a packaging company, if you make the medical supplies, someone’s got to make the package and then it goes in to keep it sanitized on the way to the health care facility. So we’re working through all of that and we’ll have that ready to go tomorrow with guidance.
Speaker 5: (38:40)
Governor Kenton, I understand you to say that the tipping point for the shelter in place order was that you’ve learned in the last 24 hours that people can be asymptomatic throughout the disease and still spread. It seems like that’s been clear for a while.
Governor Kemp: (38:54)
Well, I’ll let Dr. Toomey speak to that. But we’ve been doing two calls a day, every day for well over a month. And last night Dr. Toomey said on that call, and we talked about it again today. That this new information that came from CDC was a game changer. So I’ll let her speak to that, Dr. Toomey?
Dr. Toomey: (39:13)
Sure, thank you. I think we knew, you could tell from the pattern of spreads and we knew from the cruise ships that there’s likely asymptomatic transmission, CDC guidance and our own testing patterns were to test those with symptoms. And so all of our epidemiologic models were based on people with symptoms. And I think it’s a combination not only of recognizing that there’s probably a large number of people out there who are infected, who are asymptomatic, who never would have been recognized under our old models, but also seeing the community transmission that we’re seeing and recognizing now’s the time to stop that transmission before the hospitals get over run. And this is something that the governor and I and the task force talked about at some length. And I think that the important thing is the action is being taken and we really need the public’s cooperation to ensure that this is valued and also respected.
Dr. Toomey: (40:19)
I can tell you that even in my own community, I still have people say to me, I don’t understand why you’re so upset about this. This is just like the flu. This is absolutely not just like the flu. It’s many times more transmissible. It’s also much more deadly and we have absolutely no immunity to this. We don’t have a vaccine, and our bodies we’re not exposed to this before so we can’t fight this off. So we see as the pattern of deaths has occurred those particularly elderly and those with chronic health conditions are most at risk. But everybody is a risk for infection. And I think the time is now to try to stop that community transmission.
Speaker 6: (41:09)
I’ve got a question about the longterm care facilities. It seems like an awful large number of facilities that had been affected. Have you looked at the causes of these outbreaks? Is this a number that continues to increase in terms of facilities and what are other states seeing?
Governor Kemp: (41:30)
Well, I’ll let Dr. Toomey, speak to what the Epi teams are seeing on the ground with them. I’ll just tell you, I know some of the things that we’ve discussed. I think the Albany situation, and she can confirm this, but I believe there was a funeral service weeks ago where an infected person went and it created this whole epicenter that just exploded down there. I imagine that somebody that was at that funeral works in these facilities and got in there and brought the virus inside, that’s one reason we’ve been begging people not to have… And I know it’s a hard thing, religious services, trying to do them online, try to do them, drive in people, staying in their car, spreading people out. Unfortunately, not only in Georgia, but across the country. We’ve seen individuals and churches that are not abiding by that.
Governor Kemp: (42:26)
And I know that’s a very tough deal with their congregation and with those faith leaders. Because it’s tough on me. But we’ve had other states where people literally had choir practice that practiced social distancing and did everything they were supposed to do and you still had the whole choir get infected one of the states on the West coast and two of those individuals passed away. So that’s what we’re dealing with.
Governor Kemp: (42:54)
And I think when you look back at what we had in place before the measures that we had or what the president and Dr. Burks and Dr. Foushee and Dr. Toomey are saying that we’ve gotten to continue to do, don’t go out unless you need to. When you go out, practice your social distancing, use good sanitation measures on your hands and don’t touch your face. Don’t do handshakes, don’t congregate with people and there might be new guidance that we’re going to need to look at with this new situation that we’re dealing with. And I know Dr. Toomey and I’ve spoken to that and I let her address anything she wants on the nursing home.
Dr. Toomey: (43:36)
I think we’re learning more every day, about this virus and how it acts as we’ve talked about, it’s a novel virus, it’s new and so we’re still learning a lot about how it spreads and what we need to do to protect the community. Nursing homes are probably the highest risk situation we have short of cruise ships because you have individuals at highest risk in a congregate setting. And if people come in and out, whether it’s visitors or it’s healthcare workers, they can bring infection with them. And I think what we’ve seen is that there wasn’t fully, not just in Georgia, all over the country, the full appreciation for how volatile the situations were in congregate settings like longterm care settings and senior centers and other places.
Dr. Toomey: (44:30)
We have an FE team dedicated fully to going into longterm care facilities and helping with infection control and ensuring that guidance is being followed. And even as I’m saying this now, CDC is updating their guidance daily and so I think that we’re learning and as we learn. We begin to look and begin to do outreach and begin to follow the patterns and will find more so we have 47 out of 300 some I suspect we’ll find more additional as we become more conscious of spread in the communities.
Speaker 7: (45:09)
I don’t know if this question is for Governor Kemp or Commissioner Toomey, but referring to that model you cited that we’ll reach… Can you hear me?
Governor Kemp: (45:16)
Speaker 7: (45:16)
Referring to that model you cited that we’ll reach our peak in three weeks. That’s only in reference to the first wave of the epidemic, right? According to that model, most of the population will still be susceptible after that first wave. What are y’all thinking in terms of our longterm plans to help Georgia weather this?
Governor Kemp: (45:34)
Well, we have a whole team that’s working on longterm plans of where we go from here. To try to simplify it, which this is a very complex deal that we’re dealing with. Being that it is, a new virus. But one of the things that made me really understand what we’re facing, it was pretty simple as I heard a guy talking about imagine the archery target, so you have an archery target, you’ve got this big population. We know looking from other countries and what’s happening in other states, we’re going to have a lot of people that potentially get the virus. What we’re trying to do is make sure of the people that get that virus. It’s a very small bullseye down here. They got to enter the hospital system. So if we can keep the elderly population, the medically fragile, if we can keep them from getting this, they’re the ones that are going to be more susceptible to need a hospital bed, to need a ICU bed, to need a ventilator and really that critical care for days and days and days potentially for many of those individuals.
Governor Kemp: (46:47)
So we’re trying to make sure we get that big target funneled down to an amount of people that we can handle with our, existing hospital bed space, but also ramp up for the surge that’s coming with extra beds and reopening these old facilities, ordering the pods that we’re talking about. Homer’s here, he can answer any questions on equipment, supplies, facilities. I mean they’re looking at all that we’ve turned over every rock and we continue to do that on shuttered facilities, looking at convention center sites for mobile hospitals and other things. But also looking at staffing. The hospital bed doesn’t do you any good if you don’t have a ventilator or have somebody to take care of the patient. So those are things that we’re working on and if we can flatten the curve now, we make that bullseye smaller, which is less people that we got to run through the hospital system.
Governor Kemp: (47:46)
So that’s why we need everybody’s help. And it’s like Dr. Burks said, it’s like I said, and it’s just like Dr. Toomey said, it is not the government that is going to solve that problem. It is the community at large, by adhering to social distancing, keeping your hands sanitized, don’t go to these large events, do take out orders, just stay at home with your family when you can and if you’re getting out to do things that are essential, just be doing it in a smart way and avoid people. It’s very awkward avoiding people now, but that’s what everybody’s doing. You walk by somebody on the sidewalk, you’re moving to the other side and that’s what we need them to do and we just need to do this for a few more weeks regardless of how long this goes on. Now is the crunch time for us to lessen the peek.
Governor Kemp: (48:37)
We’ve got to lessen the peak, to make the bullseye smaller, so we don’t overrun our healthcare network and all those people that are literally grinding away 24 seven. I cannot thank our healthcare workers enough. And we literally have people that are not going at home now because they don’t want to infect their family. So they are risking everything to be on the front lines of this fight and then they’re not even getting to see their family at night because they don’t want to infect them. I mean they are Georgia and American heroes out their working right now and these people, all of us can help them by flattening this curve.
Speaker 7: (49:20)
Can I just follow up, make sure I understand? So you’re saying basically to keep that bullseye small right now with these restrictions, the idea is to allow our healthcare system to ramp up to capacity that could handle a second wave. Is that what I’m understanding?
Governor Kemp: (49:34)
Well you’re talking about a wave after the peak on April the 23rd?
Speaker 7: (49:38)
Governor Kemp: (49:39)
Well I may let Dr. Toomey or Homer speak to that. I know we’re looking at long term things as well, but I mean right now we’re looking at that three week window. That’s our immediate need. Our immediate needs are PPE, ventilators. I mean, we’re working on that stuff every single day, but I know we have a team that’s thinking about the long term as well.
Governor Kemp, I think we’ve been there from the beginning when all this broke down. What do you want to tell the families of those who did lose loved ones more than 130 people in Georgia have now died and I think this news of the shelter comes as a welcome relief, but what happens to those other families that have lost loved ones? Should this have been put in place earlier?
Governor Kemp: (50:21)
Well, I think what we had in place earlier was exactly what the healthcare professionals were telling us to do. The same thing the president talked about yesterday, the same thing Dr. Burks talked about yesterday. When you look at the orders that I put in place versus what other states did, you know, Archie, you can call it whatever you want, but if the press would really dig in and compare, they would see that what Georgia has in place is very strict compared to other states around the country.
There are likelihood of this being extended. I know it’s Friday to April the 13th, though that’s about 10 days, is there-
Governor Kemp: (50:56)
We definitely have that on our radar. I don’t want to make a determination on that…
Governor Kemp: (51:03)
Not on our radar. I don’t want to make a determination on that. I’m very appreciative of the unprecedented actions that the general assembly took to give me these emergency powers. That goes through April the 13th. Now that I’ve made this decision, once we get the order in place, I’ll be talking to the Lieutenant governor and the speaker and the leadership and members of the general assembly about where we go next. Before I comment on that, I’d like to include them in that decision making process because they’re a big part of that and I’m very grateful for them.
Speaker 8: (51:33)
Can I ask you a testing related question?
Governor Kemp: (51:46)
… Decision making process because they’re a big part of that and I’m very grateful for them.
Speaker 8: (51:50)
Can I ask you a testing related question?
Governor Kemp: (51:54)
This we are seeing drive-by testing now. You know Doctor Toomey’s direction and the CDCs has been for the front line health care workers in a medically fragile to have the first dibs on the test, if you will and I think that’s an appropriate thing because we’re trying to protect the frontline healthcare worker. We don’t want them working in the hospital if they’re tested positive and I may let Doctor Toomey speak to and I know I think Homer and others had been working on testing as well. I hate to say too much that I’m not supposed to say right now but I know we have a lot that we’re rolling out and certainly the university partnership was a big one. I think that was yesterday.
Governor Kemp: (52:37)
Doctor Toomey, do you have anything?
Doctor Toomey: (52:40)
Thank you. I think that all of us recognize the more we test, the more we’ll see the spread of COVID infection and particularly as we expand testing to not highly symptomatic people, less symptomatic people because it has so been so restricted to the sickest people and also those in the hospital.
Doctor Toomey: (53:04)
Even as we expand testing more broadly, as more testing becomes available, we can’t test our way out of this crisis. We have to take the community mitigation measures that have been proposed now and I can’t again emphasize enough that it’s so important for the public to understand that this can’t be done by us testing. This can’t be done by the medical community providing care. This has got to be done by all of us working together and everybody respecting the social distancing and the request to stay out of the public for this limited time and that will pay dividends, we hope, longterm in helping to eliminate this virus.
Speaker 9: (53:51)
Thank you, doctor. Mr. Governor, thank you for your time. My questions is about the shelter-in-place. Obviously this is new for everybody in the state of Georgia and for Georgians. Besides the obvious of what you can and can’t do, talk about what families can and can’t do. For example, in my situation I have grandparents, my kids grandparents that would love to come from North Georgia down to Atlanta to visit their grandkids. Is that acceptable? What about family members seeing other family members, as long as they’re keeping distance, is that sort of activity acceptable?
Governor Kemp: (54:25)
I’ll let Doctor Toomey speak to the individual scenarios because they’re the ones that are giving me the advice on this but families need to do exactly what we’ve been telling them for weeks and we’ll have more directed tomorrow when we put the new order out but they need to social distance. They need to stay at home. They don’t need to go to gatherings of over 10 people. I wouldn’t go to them at all, if you have a choice and if you do, make sure people are social distancing, if you’re going to an outdoor church service, of something of that nature and be doing what we’re saying. But the thing is what I would tell families and what I’ve told my own mother, and I know Marty’s told her mom is look, they are of the age. They’re in that class where this virus is deadly for them. So we’re telling them to stay at home or stay in surroundings where you know people have not been moving around and just protect yourself.
Governor Kemp: (55:31)
That’s what we need families to do. If your parents are somewhere else, just wait a couple of weeks if you can. Video chat with them. Skype them. Go drop their groceries off and wave and talk to them from the street. I mean there’s ways that you can interact but still not risk them. It is not worth it for two weeks. I mean we’ve seen how this virus would literally just take certain people out in just a matter of a day or so and others not so long and it’s just nobody really knows for sure exactly what’s causing that with each individual. People are affected different.
Governor Kemp: (56:09)
But we do not, I think we’re talking about it today, I would hope you all wouldn’t hold me to this exact number, but I think about two-thirds of our fatalities from the virus in this state are medically fragile and of the older population.
Governor Kemp: (56:26)
Doctor Toomey’s whispering if not more than that.
Speaker 9: (56:31)
Thank you. Good information. Appreciate it.
Speaker 10: (56:35)
Yes. Governor, the with the shelter-in-place requirements starting, have you thought through what the consequence of violating that will be in light of the fact that the state department of corrections is looking to reduce population as are local jailers?
Governor Kemp: (56:54)
I mean the penalties, the statute are already laid out. It’s misdemeanor, a fine. Look, my directive is not to go around and lock a bunch of people up because they’re not adhering to any of our orders right now. What we want to do is get people to comply with this because if we write somebody a ticket because they have violated the order, I mean we’re taking action. Hopefully they won’t do it again but they still did it in the first place and put some money at risk.
Governor Kemp: (57:27)
So that’s why we want people to adhere to this. But make no mistake if we have those people out there that are not adhering to this or if they’re going to a facility and they’re not moving along, then we will take that action.
Governor Kemp: (57:46)
Same with a business. I mean we’ve called, I can’t tell you how many businesses and said, “Hey, we got a complaint that you’re not following the social distancing guidelines and other things that are in the current order,” and I mean people were reacting immediately going, “We’re on it, we’re on top of it. We’ll get it fixed.”
Governor Kemp: (58:06)
What we want to be able to do is not have to make that call at all and we don’t want to have to have a law enforcement official go up and write somebody a warning or write him a ticket, but we will. We’d rather people just comply and try to do the right thing.
Speaker 11: (58:25)
Commissioner Toomey mentioned that we were 47 longterm care facilities that had confirmed outbreaks. I am aware of two that you all have announced national guard teams for, one in Albany and one in Thomasville. Can you talk about how you’re making those selections and who’s going to get that enhanced insistence?
Speaker 12: (58:45)
We’re responding to a list as provided by the Department of Public Health and the Department of Community Health and they identify nursing homes that have outbreaks and so essentially we look at the ones that have the most positive patients. We coordinate that with the Department of Public Health at Georgia Department of Community Health and the Georgia Healthcare Association and so that coordination is done. When we get to yes, we deploy the team and then we provide essentially what you might consider an ala cart service to the nursing home administrator.
Speaker 12: (59:13)
We offer a number of services from education and training on how to properly wear PPE, how to put it on, how to take it off, how to prevent cross contamination, all the way down to wiping down the facilities and doing a direct infection control.
Speaker 12: (59:30)
In fact, I was down in Pelham right before I came here today and we had some 20 soldiers engaged and helping that particular facility improve its infection control. They’re very appreciative of that support and we look forward to helping other facilities as they fight this invisible enemy. Thank you.
Speaker 13: (59:54)
Good afternoon, governor. Unfortunately, one of the number one questions we’ve been getting into our newsroom is today is the first of the month. There are a lot of people who say they can’t make their mortgage payment, they can’t make their rent payment this month.
Speaker 13: (01:00:06)
What is your guidance to people who maybe are in that situation or maybe even to the landlords who are anticipating collecting that money?
Governor Kemp: (01:00:14)
I would certainly tell people to just get in touch with their landlord. I mean, everybody’s in the same boat, right? A lot of people that are renting, a lot of people that have mortgages, it’s going to be tough to pay if they’ve lost their job. I know that help is on the way from Washington, but those mortgage companies and business owners, they’re in the same boat too.
Governor Kemp: (01:00:36)
I know a lot of financial institutions are holding off people making their payments if they have renters that haven’t paid. I think that’s a great move by those financial institutions but I would just tell people, just tell your landlord your situation and I’m sure they’d be willing to work with you and we’ll continue to look at things at the state level. We’re helping facilitate a lot of the SBA contacts and other things to try to just help people from our end, but more of that help will be coming from the federal level with the stimulus checks and we have increased unemployment benefits and snap benefits and other things per what a Secretary Perdue and others have worked on at the USDA.
Speaker 13: (01:01:24)
One more. Unfortunately with this announcement, there are going to be a lot of people who are headed out the door right now to the grocery store, who are going to be concerned. What’s your message to Georgian’s right now about, I guess keeping calm?
Governor Kemp: (01:01:37)
Look, people don’t need to panic. I understand people are scared. We’ve never seen anything like this but as I mentioned at the close of my speech, we don’t need to be afraid. We’ve got, as you can see, a great team working on this; the supply lines for groceries and medications and everything else. If we have to, we will put the National Guard and the Georgia State Patrol getting groceries and supplies to the businesses to keep our families fed, to keep the medicines flowing, to get health care equipment that’s coming in to our state.
Governor Kemp: (01:02:09)
People do not need to panic and worry about that. If you’re going to the grocery store tonight, look, I get it. We’re not implementing the order tonight. We’re going to put it out tomorrow. So we’ve got a couple of days here for people to adjust and get ready.
Governor Kemp: (01:02:26)
The grocers are ready for this. They’ll be ready to restock. They’ve been limiting their hours so they can do that. So people don’t need to worry about buying for two weeks or two months. Get what you need, where you can shelter up for a while, stay home and then leave some for the other folks and give us overnight and we’ll get the grocery folks to restock the shelves and we’ve already taken many, many actions to keep the supply chain open and we’ll continue to do that.
Speaker 9: (01:02:57)
One final question, Mr. Governor, this one actually from my colleague. Why is the Georgia lottery still operating if it encourages that hand to hand contact, potentially?
Governor Kemp: (01:03:07)
I haven’t really talked to the lottery about how they’re operating. I know a lot of convenience store businesses that are handling those transactions have put in best practices. I don’t know if Doctor Toomey. has anything on that. That’s certainly something we could look into. I know a lot of people have worked on point of sale transactions to be able to do that without having that physical interaction.
Speaker 14: (01:03:30)
Yes sir. I know this is going to be another matter you’ll have to deal with in the weeks to come having to do with the state budget and the collections, the revenues that you’re getting right now. For those hardworking teachers and other state employees across the state who were hoping for a raise this year, what can you tell them now generally speaking? I know you wouldn’t know specifics yet.
Governor Kemp: (01:03:47)
Well, look, my priority has been keeping our families safe and supplying our front line hospitals and hospital workers with the supplies they need to save lives in our state. I would feel certain I could speak for the lieutenant governor and the speaker and the members of the general assembly, we will get the budget worked out but our first priority right now is to flatten the curve and we’ll do that when it’s safe to get them back in to work on that issue.
Governor Kemp: (01:04:16)
Georgian should know that we’re going to continue to have a great state. We’re going to recover stronger than ever and this economy’s going to come back. We just got to fight through this thing here for a few more weeks and flatten that curve.
Speaker 15: (01:04:50)
13 WMAZ News at five starts now.
Governor Kemp: (01:04:56)
Tomorrow, I will sign a statewide shelter-in-place order which will go into effect on Friday and run through April 13.