Last Thursday, around 1,400 Georgia healthcare workers petitioned Brian Kemp, Georgia’s governor, asking for further restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19. In the letter, healthcare workers told the governor that the state is “simply not prepared,” asking the governor to close “bars and nightclubs and prohibit indoor gatherings of more than 25 people, including at places of worship,” according to CNN News. It also recommended that Governor Kemp allow county officials and mayors to create requirements appropriate for their jurisdictions and a statewide mask requirement.
In the past week, Georgia has seen rates of the virus increase by over 50% according to John Hopkins University & Medicine, listing 90,493 reported cases in Georgia. The day the letter came out, the state recorded 3,472 new COVID-19 cases, “more than double the 1,714 new cases reported last Thursday,” according to Alive. The letter claims that the surge in cases cannot be “accounted for by increased testing.” On June 29, Governor Kemp extended Georgia’s public health emergency to July 15 instead of July 1 as it had been previously set. This bans gatherings of more than 50 people without at least 6 feet apart between each person, requires social distancing, and calls for sheltering in place at long-term facilities.
The letter read “During the past week we have seen a sharp spike in cases that cannot be accounted for by increased testing. We also are seeing a very troubling increase in hospitalizations that, if continuing, will overwhelm our healthcare infrastructure, not only in metro Atlanta but also in rural Georgia.” It continued, saying “Georgia is simply not prepared for a surge in cases and hospitalizations. You have the power to do much more to save lives and protect our citizens from avoidable illness.”
An infectious disease specialist based in Atlanta, Dr. Jesse Couk, a co-writer of the letter said that he had “a lot of concerns I was watching our cases of COVID-19 grow and grow in Georgia and I was seeing increases in hospital admissions.” He worried that another spike could send everyone back into isolation.
This week, Governor Kemp and Dr. Jerome Adams, the US Surgeon General, did a “wear a mask tour” of southwest Georgia. Although Couk is grateful for this effort, he hopes that Kemp will follow North Carolina and Texas by making masks mandatory.
The letter argues that, although these requests will economically hurt the state, not implementing them now will ultimately cause longer-lasting economic problems. It stated that Georgia “will not be able to safely send our children to school in the Fall which will have long lasting repercussions on their education, health, and well-being,” if they don’t do something now.