Kemp’s Refusal To Use Emergency Powers “Undermines Effort” to Contain COVID-19

March 25, 2020

ATLANTA — This week, as number of Georgians infected with COVID-19 skyrockets with 1,247 confirmed coronavirus cases and counting, Governor* Brian Kemp is facing increasing criticisms for his failure to take serious statewide action to prevent the spread of the virus, as local elected officials and public health experts call on the governor to take the common sense approaches needed to keep Georgians safe.

While dozens of governors from both parties have taken serious action to restrict gatherings, enact statewide shelter-in-place restrictions and close nonessential business, Kemp’s “refusal to use emergency powers” has left local elected officials to fill in the vacuum – leading to a crisis of leadership that public health experts warn “could undermine Georgia’s effort to contain the disease.” 

Georgia is now reporting 1,247 confirmed coronavirus cases in the state, with that number rapidly growing. Just last night, southwest Georgia’s Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany reported that they are already out of intensive care space in a part of the state where infection rates are 10 times as high as Georgia’s statewide rate. Without statewide action to reduce the spread, we will soon see a “catastrophe” in Georgia’s healthcare system. 

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Atlanta Journal Constitution: Kemp faces growing pressure to enact new coronavirus restrictions 

  • Gov. Brian Kemp’s refusal to use emergency powers to impose stiffer restrictions to stem the spread of coronavirus has led to a patchwork of local regulations that public health experts warn could undermine Georgia’s effort to contain the disease. 
  • His reluctance stands in contrast to dozens of other governors, as well as a growing number of Georgia municipal and county leaders, who have imposed steep restrictions meant to stem the spread of the disease.
  • At least 36 other states have enacted statewide limits on gatherings and restricted restaurants and other businesses, according to the National Governors Association, as Kemp weighed taking similar steps. Those restrictions span most Southern states. 
  • “We need Governor Kemp to act now, the point of ‘no return’ for Georgia is rapidly closing,” said Carlos del Rio, the chair of the Department of Global Health Studies at Emory University. “To prevent a catastrophe in the healthcare system due to Covid-19, we need for him to shut down Georgia now.”
  • The calls for Kemp to force closures and restrict events have grown more insistent as the number of coronavirus cases rises. The disease has infected at least 772 Georgians, including four state senators, and is linked to 25 deaths. 
  • “This is a non-partisan issue – this virus sees no color or political affiliations, it doesn’t care about status or economic positioning,” top House Democratic leaders wrote Kemp on Monday, urging him to be more “proactive in the fight against this ‘invisible enemy.’”
  • They’re joined by a growing number of Republicans. House Speaker David Ralston became one of the state’s first GOP leaders to advocate for a shelter-in-place order Monday as the state rapidly reaches what he called a “tipping point.”
  • The governor instead has relied on the soft power of his office to encourage clergy members to hold services online and Georgians to stay home if they can.
  • “I can’t believe Kemp still won’t act,” said Russell Edwards, an Athens-Clarke County commissioner who helped engineer a “shelter in place” policy in the governor’s hometown. “How many more people must die before Kemp listens to the experts on how to respond?”

Georgia Recorder: Georgia cities aim to slow COVID-19 with more restrictions than state

  • The Association County Commissioners of Georgia issued a statement late Tuesday saying it will defer to what local officials think is best for their community. So far, at least 70 counties have declared a public health emergency. 
  • The push from the association of Georgia’s thousands of city officials comes as Gov. Brian Kemp faces criticism for not taking stronger action on Monday.
  • The state of emergency directive is recommended by Carlos del Rio, an infectious disease expert and a professor at Emory University School of Medicine, who told the municipal association that the spread of the disease caused by the new coronavirus could overwhelm hospitals unless stronger action is taken.
  • “While Gov. Kemp’s executive action announced (Monday) addresses some of the critical needs in our state, I do not feel that it goes far enough in ensuring the health and safety of our citizens,” Savannah Mayor Van Johnson said. “Because of this, I will be sending Gov. Kemp a letter today requesting greater state oversight and consistency in rules across the state.”

Associated Press via U.S. News & World Report: Georgia governor orders bars, clubs closed amid coronavirus 

  •  Georgia’s governor said Monday that he was ordering all bars and nightclubs in the state to close because of the coronavirus and giving state officials the authority to shut down businesses that don’t comply as the number of infections confirmed statewide reached 800.
  • Kemp said the state would also ban gatherings of 10 or more people unless people could maintain a distance of 6 feet (2 meters). Kemp’s announcement did not mention restaurants.
  • The measures fall short of orders issued in other states and what some lawmakers and health experts had sought. Indiana, Michigan and West Virginia joined states including California, Illinois and New York in asking or ordering their residents to stay home and keep businesses closed.
  • Kemp had previously ordered schools to close but refrained from taking stronger steps, leaving those decisions to local governments instead. Individual counties in Georgia have placed restrictions on businesses and gatherings.
  • Dougherty County, where Albany is the county seat, continues to have the worst confirmed infection rate statewide. Its 64 cases are more than 10 times the positive rate statewide. Other counties with high infection rates include Bartow County in northwest Georgia and Lee County, a suburban neighbor of Dougherty County.


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