Gov. Brian Kemp urged Georgians to practice caution amid an outbreak of the coronavirus disease known as COVID-19 on Thursday, but he said he will not force businesses to close or institute a statewide quarantine.
Kemp addressed the media via a video briefing to update reporters on the state’s COVID-19 situation and response. The governor urged Georgians to “remain calm, act responsibly and help us urge your fellow Georgians to follow the medical recommendations,” such as social distancing and staying home as much as possible.
He stopped short of saying Georgia will go as far as some places, such as San Francisco, and put communities on lockdown, however.
“Right now, I’m not mandating business closures, shutting down public events or forcing people into quarantine,” Kemp said. “I am, however, leaning on the advice of medical professionals and scientists, as well as urging local officials to do what is in their best interest, and the best interest of their communities, to keep their communities safe and stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“We are all in this fight together, and together we will emerge stronger than ever.”
The governor’s briefing came hours after state health officials announced the number of Georgians who have died from the disease has reached 10, with the number of confirmed cases of the disease jumping by 91 cases in 24 hours.
Kemp said he does expect the number of confirmed cases to increase significantly in the next couple of weeks as more testing happens. He said regional testing sites around the state are close to being ready.
“We’ll be announcing that as soon as we can, but I can tell you those facilities are being stood up right now,” Kemp said. “There was some soft testing that began yesterday to make sure we had the process and the procedures down, and we’ll continue to share that information with the public as soon as it becomes available.”
Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey said the state has seen a significant jump in the number of confirmed cases in recent days because of an increase in the number of people who are getting tested.
Toomey said the state has 500 swab test kits that will be distributed across the state. Additional test kits are expected to be coming to Georgia as well, she said.
Some high capacity specimen collection sites are expected to be set up in Albany, which has become a hotspot in the state as officials trace cases in that area back to two funerals, and Cherokee County, which was chosen because of its central location between Rome and Atlanta.
The Cherokee County site could be set up as early as Friday, Toomey said.
“We have limited testing statewide, even at these high capacity sites, to the individuals who are most at risk for infection,” Toomey said. “That is the elderly, over 60 years old, those with chronic health conditions — those are symptomatic individuals, not just people who have these conditions but have symptoms already — (and) also health care workers.
“Health care workers are the first responders for us. They are the front line. We have to ensure that they are health and safe and able to provide the care that we need. Also EMS and other fire responders — police and fire. these will be our prioritized people to be seen at all of our testing sites statewide.”