Kemp Declares Public Health State of Emergency
Atlanta, GA (March 14, 2020) – Today Governor Brian P. Kemp signed a public health state of emergency to address novel coronavirus and COVID-19 in Georgia. Kemp gave a televised address to Georgians with the following remarks:
"My fellow Georgians: Over the past few weeks, our state has been facing an unprecedented public health threat with the spread of novel coronavirus. In only a matter of days, communities within the metro-Atlanta area and North Georgia have seen several cases, including hospitalizations, where the source of infection is unknown. Many of these cases have no connection to travel, and the capacity of our healthcare system remains at the forefront of my mind as we prepare for more local transmission. As of this morning, there are now sixty-four cases of COVID-19 in Georgia, which is our largest increase over a twenty-four period to date. This information will reflect on the Department of Public Health’s new website shortly.
There are now fifteen cases in Cobb, eleven cases in Fulton, eight cases in DeKalb, seven cases in Bartow, five cases in Cherokee, four cases in Fayette, three cases in Floyd, two cases in Coweta, two cases in Gordon, two cases in Gwinnett, and one case each for Lee, Henry, Lowndes, Polk, and Charlton counties. In Bartow, Cobb, and DeKalb counties, the number of cases doubled overnight. We have to remain vigilant, especially for our most vulnerable populations. For weeks now, my team has been working around the clock to make sure that we are ready for any scenario. We have increased capacity at our state lab to allow for coronavirus testing of specimens. Right now, we are processing 100 specimens per day, and by the end of next week, we will double it to 200 per day with the addition of new equipment and staff.
We continue to work closely with local healthcare providers, local government officials, private labs, emergency responders, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and our federal counterparts. Together, we are gathering pertinent information to share it with the public in a timely manner and utilize the resources at hand to respond to this unprecedented health emergency. We have called on daycares and schools to take necessary measures to keep students, teachers, and administrators safe. We have restricted visitation at specific state health facilities as well as correctional and juvenile justice facilities. We have called on faith-based organizations to consider cancellation of services to mitigate the risk of transmission. I have also asked state agencies to immediately implement telework policies for employees who are able to work remotely without causing a disruption in service to Georgians. We have fully activated the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency’s State Operations Center.
Yesterday, President Trump highlighted efforts to partner with the private sector and ramp up coronavirus testing. We are working on establishing independent test sites in every major region of Georgia, and we expect to announce those locations early next week. And out of an abundance of caution, I have worked with the General Assembly to appropriate 100 million dollars in emergency funding to address the spread of coronavirus in Georgia. As many of you know, yesterday afternoon, President Trump signed a national emergency declaration for our country. I deeply appreciate his administration’s leadership in this fight. Throughout this process, Vice President Mike Pence has also been an invaluable asset to state and local leaders – always ready to lend assistance, provide guidance, and connect us with the right federal partners to keep moving forward.
Based on President Trump's emergency declaration, today I will declare a public health emergency for the State of Georgia. This declaration will greatly assist health and emergency management officials across Georgia by deploying all available resources for the mitigation and treatment of COVID-19. If necessary, unlike other states of emergency, this declaration will allow the Department of Public Health to direct specific healthcare action in extraordinary circumstances. It suspends restrictions on hours of commercial vehicle operation and vehicle height, weight, and length thresholds to assist in preparation and response efforts. It authorizes the Georgia Composite Medical Board and Georgia Board of Nursing to grant temporary licenses to applicants who are in good standing in other states to assist in addressing healthcare needs.
In accordance with state law, I will call for a special session of the General Assembly to convene at the State Capitol at 8 AM on Monday, March 16, 2020 to ratify this action through a joint resolution. Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan and Speaker David Ralston have expressed their full support, and I look forward to continuing to work with them on this important effort in the weeks ahead. I have also spoken to leaders of both parties in the General Assembly to explain the situation that we are facing and ask for their support.
This public health emergency is unprecedented for the State of Georgia, and I do not take this action lightly. It is a more specialized form of a state of emergency and allows for a more robust response to crisis specifically in the healthcare sector. As part of our planning efforts, we know that for most Georgians, the symptoms of COVID-19 are mild to moderate with no need for hospitalization, but for elderly citizens and those with chronic, underlying health conditions, the consequences can be severe. Yesterday afternoon, I met with epidemiologists from Emory University, the University of Georgia, Grady Health System, and Augusta University along with Dr. Kathleen Toomey, the state’s chief health officer and Commissioner of the Department of Public Health. I asked for their medical advice in addressing public health needs and utilizing mitigation tools in the days ahead. They all recommended immediate implementation of social distancing measures to flatten the epidemiology curve for exposure and mitigate patient surge at health facilities. Otherwise, we risk a run on critical resources for the sickest patients in our state. Now is the time to act.
According to the CDC, social distancing means postponing group congregations and large gatherings like sporting events and social functions. In his address yesterday, the President specifically mentioned staggering recess and lunch for schools which are not closed, limiting in-person meetings, increasing scheduled cleanings, and canceling work-sponsored travel. If they have not done so already, Georgians need to incorporate social distancing into their everyday lives. If you need more specific guidance, we are here to serve you. Contact your local public health office or consult official sources, such as the CDC and the Georgia Department of Public Health, for helpful guidance on decision-making. Remember: Elderly citizens and those with chronic, underlying health conditions face a serious threat to their health, and we must do everything in our power to reduce risk associated with this virus.
We will continue to provide updates to the public as we weather this crisis. I know how important transparency is in a time like this, and I will continue to operate with transparency. In the days and weeks ahead, we must remain supportive of one another, be mindful of potential exposure, use best practices to prevent infection, and pray for our fellow Americans. As I stand here today, I can see a painting of our state flag along the walls of this office where many governors have stood before me. Underneath the coat of arms, it says, “In God We Trust,” and I keep thinking about that as we take action to keep families safe. As this situation evolves, we will take appropriate action at the right time with the right resources. I am asking for God’s wisdom every hour.
Please pray for the patients, their loved ones, medical providers, and all of the people working to address this health emergency. We are in this fight together, and because of that, we will be stronger than ever before. Thank you, and may God continue to bless the State of Georgia."
Atlanta, GA (March 13, 2020) – Following President Trump’s national emergency declaration today, Governor Kemp issued the following statement:
“Based on President Trump's emergency declaration, I will declare a public health emergency for the State of Georgia tomorrow morning. This declaration will greatly assist health and emergency management officials across Georgia by deploying all available resources for the mitigation and treatment of COVID-19. In accordance with state law, I will call for a special session of the General Assembly to convene at the State Capitol at 8 AM on Monday, March 16, 2020 to ratify this action through a joint resolution.
"At this time, it is appropriate for faith-based organizations and similar entities to consider cancellation of public events and services. Contact your local public health office or consult official sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Georgia Department of Public Health, for helpful guidance on decision-making. Elderly citizens and those with chronic, underlying health conditions face a serious threat to their health, and we must do everything in our power to reduce risk associated with this virus. Continue to support one another, be mindful of potential exposure, use best practices to prevent infection, and pray for your fellow Americans in the weeks ahead."
After reviewing state records, it appears that Governor Kemp's declaration tomorrow will constitute Georgia's first ever public health emergency. The applicable code section is O.C.G.A. 38-3-51.
Atlanta, GA (March 7, 2020) -There are now thirty-one confirmed and presumed positive cases of COVID-19 in twelve counties around Georgia.
The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is awaiting confirmatory testing from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on three new presumed positive cases of COVID-19. Two individuals are residents of DeKalb County, both are hospitalized, and the sources of their infections are unknown. There is no connection between the two cases. The third individual is a resident of Lowndes County and is hospitalized. The source of the infection is unknown.
There are six new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Georgia. One individual is a resident of Lee County and is hospitalized. The source of the infection is unknown. One individual is a resident of Cobb County and is hospitalized. The individual has a history of travel outside the U.S. One individual is from Floyd County and is hospitalized. The source of the infection is unknown.
Three of the confirmed cases of COVID-19 are residents of Bartow County. Two individuals are hospitalized and the sources of the infections are unknown at this time. The third individual is not hospitalized, and while the source of the infection is unknown, this individual does share a connection with the individual from Floyd County mentioned above.
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 and presumed positive cases of COVID-19 are broken down by county as follows:
Confirmed COVID-19 Cases (Total: 12)
Fulton County: 3
Floyd County: 2
Polk County: 1
Cobb County: 2
Bartow County: 3
Lee County: 1
Presumed Positive COVID-19 Cases (Total: 19)
Fulton County: 3
Cobb County: 6
Fayette County: 1
DeKalb County: 4
Gwinnett County: 2
Cherokee County: 1
Charlton County: 1
Lowndes County: 1
Atlanta, GA (March 7, 2020) - There have been further developments overnight regarding COVID-19 in Georgia. Governor Kemp and the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) remind all Georgians that the overall risk of COVID-19 to the general public remains low and there is no evidence of community spread of COVID-19 in Georgia at this time.
DPH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have confirmed three additional cases of COVID-19 in Georgia.
One individual is from Cobb County after recently returning from Italy and is isolated at home. The second individual is from Fulton County and is hospitalized. The source of this individual’s exposure is unclear at this time. Testing for these two cases was done solely by the CDC, prior to the Georgia Public Health Laboratory (GPHL) having the capacity to test for COVID-19.
CDC testing has confirmed the presumptive positive test for COVID-19 in a resident of Floyd County. The original testing was done by GPHL on March 5. The individual is hospitalized.
Additionally, DPH is awaiting confirmatory testing on a presumptive positive test for COVID-19 in a resident of Gwinnett County. The initial testing was completed by GPHL on March 6. The individual recently returned from Italy and was self-monitoring at home, and is now isolated at home.
“Federal and state officials continue to work closely together to conduct testing and determine the extent of exposure for confirmed cases of COVID-19. The risk to Georgians remains low. We ask Georgians to stay vigilant, utilize best practices to mitigate health risk, and remain calm,” said Governor Kemp.
“DPH is prepared to mitigate the spread of this virus in our state, and we are aggressively working to identify anyone who may have had contact with these individuals,” said Kathleen E. Toomey, MD, MPH, DPH Commissioner. “Despite these new cases, the overall risk of COVID-19 to the general public remains low; but each new case of COVID-19 in Georgia reinforces the fact that we should all be practicing basic prevention measures that are extremely effective in limiting the spread of COVID-19 and all respiratory illnesses.”
Atlanta, GA (March 2, 2020) – This evening, Governor Brian Kemp, Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) Commissioner Kathleen Toomey, MD, and state officials confirmed Georgia’s first cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) involving two residents of Fulton County who live in the same household. One recently returned from Italy. Both have mild symptoms; they are isolated at home with other relatives to keep the illness from spreading.
DPH is working to identify any contacts who may have been exposed while the individuals were infectious. People who are identified as having been exposed will be contacted directly by a DPH epidemiologist and monitored for fever and respiratory symptoms.
Video from Press Conference on March 2, 2020
Earlier this evening, Governor Kemp spoke with Vice President Mike Pence about the two confirmed cases. The Governor's Coronavirus Task Force was briefed via conference call at roughly 9:30 PM. At 10 PM, Governor Kemp held a press conference at the Georgia State Capitol with Dr. Toomey, State Epidemiologist Cherie Drenzek, Adjutant General Tom Carden, Georgia Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security Director Homer Bryson, and Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John King.
“Our team has been working around the clock to prepare for any scenario. Already, state health officials have established contact with these individuals to gather more information, monitor their condition, and determine any exposure,” said Governor Kemp. “They are confident that our efforts to prepare for this moment have enabled us to manage these cases appropriately and minimize any risks moving forward. We remain in constant communication with our partners at all levels of government, and we will continue to update members of the public as information becomes available.”
“We knew that Georgia would likely have confirmed cases of COVID-19, and we planned for it. The immediate risk of COVID-19 to the general public, however, remains low at this time,” said Kathleen E. Toomey, MD, MPH, DPH Commissioner. “I cannot emphasize enough the need for all Georgians to follow the simple precautions that DPH always urges to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses.”
COVID-19 spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Symptoms appear within two to fourteen days after exposure and include fever, cough, runny nose, and difficulty breathing. Those considered at risk for contracting the virus are individuals with travel to areas where there are ongoing outbreaks of COVID-19 or individuals in close contact with a person infected with COVID-19.
Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least twenty seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Stay home when you are sick.
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
The flu is still widespread and active throughout the state, so if you have not already gotten a flu shot, it is not too late. While the flu shot will not protect against COVID-19, it will prevent serious complications that require hospitalization and prevent overburdening the health care system in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.
If you have recently traveled to areas where there are ongoing outbreaks of COVID-19 and develop fever with cough and shortness of breath within fourteen days of your travel, or if you have had contact with someone who is suspected to have COVID-19, stay home and call your health care provider or local health department right away. Be sure to call before going to a doctor’s office, emergency room, or urgent care center and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
Updated information about COVID-19
Find answers to frequently asked questions at CDC