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Governor Kemp Provides COVID-19 Update to Mayors

Post Date:03/18/2020 10:59 AM

The State of Georgia has a new COVID-19 hotline. If you believe that you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to the novel coronavirus, please contact your primary care doctor, an urgent care clinic, or your local federally qualified healthcare center. Please do not show up unannounced at an emergency room or health care facility.

On Tuesday 3/17/20, Governor Brian Kemp held an update call with the mayors of Georgia's Hub Cities and the Metro Atlanta Mayors. GEMA Director Homer Bryson and Dr. Kathleen E. Toomey, M.P.H., commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, were also on the call. Here are the key points from the call: 

Governor Kemp declared a Public Health State of Emergency for Georgia on Saturday 3/14/20, and the Georgia General Assembly ratified that declaration on Monday 3/16/20 with bipartisan support. The Public Health State of Emergency will give the state the tools to tackle this issue head on. 

Governor Kemp now has the authority to activate up to 2,000 Georgia National Guard troops to active duty to address issues related to coronavirus (COVID-19). The state is currently using the Georgia National Guard sparingly for small missions such as transporting medical equipment and security at quarantine facilities related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As of midday Tuesday 3/17/20, Georgia had 146 positive COVID-19 cases in 27 counties.

On Monday, the state received a shipment from the strategic national stockpile. The state also has supplies on order from private sectors vendors, including over 100,000 masks, 10,000 pallets of medical face shields, 10,000 gloves, 25,000 gowns, 26,000 shoe-covers and 1,000 goggles. 

Key Points: 

  • Testing: The state is now establishing independent test sites in each region of the state. There are 18 health districts around the state, which should have at least one test site in each region in a matter of days or a week. Federally qualified health centers are establishing drive-thru or tents for COVID-19 testing at their sites. They are using the vendor LabCorp. The Governor shared that the metro Atlanta area’s Grady Health System will have testing capabilities starting March 18th, with the capability to test approximately 40 cases a day.
  • Remind Constituents: Governor Kemp urged mayors to remind constituents to practice social distancing and proper handwashing, avoid large events, stay home if sick, use hand sanitizers and to be especially protective of the elderly and chronically ill. He also encouraged city officials to continue supporting local businesses and residents in the community.
  • School Closures: In conversations with the Georgia Association of State Educational Leaders and with Georgia's state school superintendents, Kemp made the call to close all public schools, K-12 and post-secondary schools from March 18-March 31. They are all moving to online instruction. The state is committed  to working with school superintendents and other educational leaders on the time frame of school closures and extended school closings, if necessary due to the coronavirus.  The University system and the Technical College System are moving to online courses until the end of the semester except for students who need an in-person experience. State School Superintendent Richard Woods has suspended milestone testing until the end of the school year and has also suspended the attendance requirement until the end of the school year.
  • Isolation Facilities: The state is currently maintaining isolation facilities at Hard Labor Creek State Park with seven trailers in a remote area of the park. One patient that was isolated there has returned home, fully recovered and believed to have returned to work. There is one new patient onsite and the rest of the trailers are currently vacant. The facility is well secured and isolated, so there is no risk to the local community. The state is close to opening another the isolation facility in Forsyth, Monroe County at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center (GPSTC).  That space should be up and running, if the weather holds, by the end of this week. Twenty isolation trailers are planned for the area. 
  • Price Gouging: Attorney General Chris Carr is seeing cases of price gouging, mainly around food and water. The AG is also receiving information about private testing sites that are charging up to $300 per test. Governor Kemp urges city officials to get the word out in their respective communities for those in need of testing to call their doctor first and get the best advice before visiting a healthcare facility for the test. He also urged that citizens contact their local health department or dial the coronavirus hotline (below). City officials who know of price gouging in their communities should contact the AG's office.
  • Teleworking: Governor Kemp noted that many governments, including the state government, as well as the city of Atlanta have fully implemented telework policies where practical, and he encourages others to do the same. 
  • Small Business Administration Loans: Georgia is the first state in the Southeast to submit a letter for the Small Business Administration loans. That process is underway and the state expects to be notified soon. The U.S. Small Business Administration Administrator Jovita Carranza issued revised criteria for states or territories seeking an economic injury declaration related COVID-19. The relaxed criteria will have two immediate impacts: 
      • Faster, Easier Qualification Process for States Seeking SBA Disaster Assistance. Historically, the SBA has required that any state or territory impacted by disaster provide documentation certifying that at least five small businesses have suffered substantial economic injury as a result of a disaster, with at least one business located in each declared county/parish. Under the just-released, revised criteria, states or territories are only required to certify that at least five small businesses within the state/territory have suffered substantial economic injury, regardless of where those businesses are located.
      • Expanded, Statewide Access to SBA Disaster Assistance Loans for Small Businesses. SBA disaster assistance loans are typically only available to small businesses within counties identified as disaster areas by a Governor. Under the revised criteria issued today, disaster assistance loans will be available statewide following an economic injury declaration. This will apply to current and future disaster assistance declarations related to coronavirus. 
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