Gov. Brian Kemp highlighted improving COVID-19 novel coronavirus disease numbers at public appearances this week, but he hesitated to say when he expects to stop renewing his public health state of emergency declarations meant to address the ongoing pandemic.
Kemp extended his public health emergency declaration this past week until October, the latest in a series of extensions since the spring. He also highlighted declining numbers related to the pandemic during an appearance at Amazon’s new facility in south Gwinnett on Tuesday.
After an appearance with U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler in Peachtree Corners on Wednesday, he addressed the question of whether the declaration could last through the end of the year.
“There’s a lot of things that the public health state of emergency state of emergency allows us to do as a state, to have uniformity in many ways with what we’re opening, what we’re doing with the national guard in testing, a lot of funding type issues that we’ve been able to do and so I don’t really see that going away in the foreseeable future,” Kemp said. “Certainly not until we can get a vaccine or whether we reach herd immunity, or whatever that point is, and I couldn’t tell you whether that’s going to be in late November, January, this coming spring or next summer.”
Gwinnett County had a total of 2,250 new COVID-19 cases reported in the last two weeks, with a two-week incidence rate of 232 cases for every 100,000 Gwinnettians, according to data released by the Georgia Department of Public Health on Thursday afternoon.
Both numbers were down from there they were earlier in the week as new cases reports continue to decline in Gwinnett.
In all, Gwinnett has seen a total of 24,763 COVID-19 cases, 2,493 hospitalizations and 346 deaths since the first cases appeared in March.
The county has had an overall incidence rate — counting all cases since March — of 2,549.88 cases for every 100,000 residents.
The Georgia Department of Public Health reported Gwinnett has had a two-week positivity rate of 7.5% over the last two weeks and a total positivity rate of 11.8% as of Thursday.
Statewide, there have been 277,288 cases of COVID-19, 5,868 deaths, 4,628 ICU admissions and 25,529 hospitalizations reported in Georgia.
“Thankfully, here in Georgia, we’re seeing encouraging signs of progress on a lot of fronts,” Kemp said at a press conference at the new Amazon fulfillment center in south Gwinnett on Tuesday. “Georgia’s seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases has dropped by 35%. Our percent positive has rapidly declined and now COVID-19 hospitalizations are down below 2,000. That is a 38% decrease from our peak and the lowest since early July.”
In addition to those stats, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a vaccine is expected to become available to states around early November. Kemp has appointed Insurance and Fire Safety commissioner John King to oversee the distribution of the vaccine once it is available in Georgia.
“We know it’s going to be critical to, No. 1, get the vaccine but, No. 2, to distribute it very quickly,” Kemp said during his visit to Peachtree Corners on Wednesday. “I’ve been in conversations with Gen. John King about leading a task force that would kind of brainstorm and out all the nuts and bolts together to do that.”
A new concern has been how people will behave during the Labor Day holiday this weekend. The governor said spikes in new cases were seen after the last two major holidays, Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, and officials are trying to get ahead of the issue for Labor Day.
Kemp was expected to do a fly around tour of the state this past week to encourage Georgians to stay safe and follow public health guidelines during the holiday weekend.
“We’ve got to take this one day at a time,” Kemp said on Wednesday. “People need to mask up, keep your social distance, wash your hands, follow the guidelines. That’s especially important going into this holiday weekend where we don’t have a bump or a spike like we saw with Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.”