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Georgia governor to activate national guard for COVID response

Gov. Brian Kemp said 200 troops will be deployed starting Jan. 3.

ATLANTA — Reminiscent to some of the earliest days of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, Gov. Brian Kemp approached a podium Wednesday afternoon outlining how Georgia plans to handle the latest surge of COVID-19. He said the state's COVID-19 response will include the national guard.

Kemp announced he has activated the guard and will have about 200 troops deploy next week.

"I just wanted to reassure my fellow Georgians, we've gotten through this before, we'll absolutely do it again," he said regarding the state's pandemic response.

The governor said about 96 troops will support Georgia's Department of Public Health at testing sites and another 100 troops will serve at hospitals.

"We are planning and will begin mobilizing by next week," he said, expecting to fill troop assignments by Jan. 18.

The troops tapped to serve at hospitals across the state are just another resource Kemp is adding to Georgia's medical response to the virus.

The governor said he met with nine representatives from hospital systems in Georgia who said they're are experiencing staffing shortages and are now feeling the strain of the omicron variant. That's why Kemp said the state is also putting $100 million toward healthcare staff augmentation to help add 1,000 additional personnel.

Between troops and augmented medical staff, Kemp hopes to boost Georgia's medical system to help address the omicron variant and its strain on the state's hospital systems.

“It is spreading a lot quicker than anything we’ve seen," he said. "You can simply look at the numbers, so we realize that testing sites are going to get overwhelmed as well."

Kemp added that Georgians can do their part to and avoid going to hospitals for coronavirus testing unless absolutely necessary. 

"We will work diligently to provide aid to cut down on people’s wait times at testing locations, but we want to urge Georgians to be patient, to be compassionate to your fellow neighbors and citizens," he said.