ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp in an afternoon press conference said the state's message is changing, and that elderly Georgians and those with chronic and underlying conditions face "much higher risk of adverse consequences from exposure to coronavirus."
He encouraged "all families to get together to talk about how they're going to protect their grandparents, how they're going to protect their loved ones with health conditions and come up with a game plan for getting them what they need."
He also called on educational and community leaders to consider closing day cares, schools and school districts as soon as tomorrow for two weeks. He stressed it was not a mandate.
"At this point we believe that local decision making is the right course of action and that you have flexibility," he said.
State government and the Georgia State Capitol will remain open. However, Kemp is immediately suspending nonessential travel and implementing telework policies for most state employees.
"This is the right thing to do," Kemp said. "This arrangement will prevent substantial disruption of service to our constituents and mitigate risk. We will be sending out guidance to all agency leaders to ensure that they have the right plans in place for implementation."
The Governor was joined by Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan, Speaker David Ralston, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey, Adjutant General Tom Carden, Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John King, and Governor's Coronavirus Task Force members.
Dr. Toomey, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health said Georgia has the capacity to test about 50 people a day and is working to double testing capacity next week.
Kemp also announced sub-committees to the coronavirus task force. Those include the following:
Emergency Preparedness Committee: Chaired by General John King, this committee will analyze the availability of necessary supplies and evaluate logistical needs. Their job will be to lay the groundwork for supply chain needs in the weeks ahead.
Economic Impact Committee: Chaired by State Economist Jeffrey Dorfman, this committee will work with leaders in academia, business, and lawmakers on preparing for the short-and-long-term impacts of the virus on the Georgia economy.
Primary Care Physicians Committee: Chaired by State Senator Ben Watson (R - Savannah), chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services, this committee of public and private healthcare experts will work to ensure that the best decisions are being made for the healthcare community as they mitigate this crisis.
Committee for the Homeless and Displaced: Chaired by Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, this committee will ensure adequate shelter, resources, and care for vulnerable populations in Georgia.
Just yesterday, Kemp requested $100 million be drawn from the Revenue Shortfall Reserve (RSR) to combat the spread of COVID-19.
"Ensuring that Georgia has the resources at hand to enable us to respond quickly and thoroughly to prevent its [COVID-19] spread within our borders is paramount to keeping our citizens safe, maintaining the health of our health network, and mitigating impact to our economy," said Governor Kemp. "...I do not make the recommendation to draw from this account lightly... However, the spread of the coronavirus represents an immediate and unforeseen threat to the state.
REAL-TIME UPDATES: Coronavirus in Georgia
"...Our primary responsibility as state leaders must always be to ensure the safety and well-being of our citizens. To that end, I appreciate your consideration in appropriating these much-needed funds to ensure that Georgia stands at the ready to protect the health of our people."
In Georgia, the risk of contracting COVID-19 remains low, according to officials. At 11Alive, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. We will track the most important coronavirus elements relating to Georgia at 11alive.com/coronavirus.
MORE CORONAVIRUS HEADLINES: