ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp delivered remarks Monday afternoon on the state of COVID-19 in Georgia.
The governor began by issuing an executive order to allot more weight in transportation, allowing for more equipment to get to hospitals and fuel to get to gas stations across the state.
Kemp said the decision comes after receiving reports that healthcare systems have had trouble accessing necessary supplies.
Gov. Kemp also touched on his previous executive order, which deployed 105 medically trained National Guard members to 10 hospitals across the state. Over the weekend, he said an additional 75 guard members were deployed, bringing the total number up to 180.
Kemp said that while many hospital systems have requested guardsmen, they are limited in the number of those who are medically trained. However, his new executive order would also allow for the deployment of up for 2,500 National Guard members, should they be needed.
Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey also spoke during the news conference, stating that Georgia is behind other states in tackling the delta surge. She stated that virtually, 100% of all cases are of the delta variant, approaching the worst cases numbers and hospitalizations since January of this year.
On Saturday, she said the state reported over 12,000 new cases, one of the highest day rates reported since the beginning of the pandemic.
Many regions are in the red zone for high transmission levels and the number of cases among school-age children has quadrupled, with the highest number of cases in children ages 11 to 17.
She also stated that Georgia has reached the highest number of weekly outbreaks since the start of the pandemic.
However, Toomey continued to emphasize that the deaths and hospitalizations are largely among unvaccinated people.
"Vaccination is our tool to get us out of this pandemic," she added.
Before ending the news conference, Kemp was asked about the issue of kids wearing masks at school.
"I'm all for anyone wearing a mask," he said. However, his answers danced around the idea of whether schools should enforce mask mandates. Instead, Gov. Kemp simply stated they need to encourage people to get vaccinated.
"Mandates like that are only going to cause division on campus," he added.
Over the last 14 days where numbers were reported by DPH, the average daily increase in newly reported deaths was 50.93 deaths each day. Over the previous 14-day period where numbers were reported, the average daily increase in newly reported deaths was 16.93.
On Monday alone, the last time the state released numbers, there were 19,058 new cases since Friday. Since the pandemic began, there have been 1,084,225 cases confirmed in Georgia.
Vaccination rates in Georgia continue to be among the lowest in the country with only 43 percent of eligible Georgians fully vaccinated, according to state data.
Monday evening, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said the city is considering incentives to encourage people to get vaccinated. And she said the city continues to mandate masks indoors, saying that masks, vaccinations, and sending in the troops should all be part of one message to convey to the people of Georgia.
"We can't send conflicting messages," she said, about troops being needed to support hospital staffs that are inundated with COVID patients on the one hand, and voluntary mask policies on the other.
"We've got to do all we can to protect the people of this state," she said. "The message (from the state) has been very conflicting at times."
She underscored the policy still in effect in Atlanta: "If you're in closed spaces, if you're indoors, wear a mask."
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