At the State Operations Center this afternoon, Governor Brian P. Kemp and state officials gave a media briefing. Governor Kemp gave the following remarks:
“Good afternoon, everyone. Today I’m joined by Commissioner of Public Health Dr. Kathleen Toomey, GEMA Director Homer Bryson, Adjutant General Tom Carden, Colonel Gary Vowell, Lt. Colonel Chris Wright, Captain Nikki Renfroe, Department of Corrections Commissioner Tim Ward, Assistant Commissioner Ahmed Holt, Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Tyrone Oliver, Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Mark Williams, Georgia Bureau of Investigations Director Vic Reynolds, and Special Agent in Charge Debbie Gardner.
“Before we get started with our weekly COVID-19 briefing, I wanted to take a few moments to address the protests that we have seen in communities across our nation. As I said over the weekend, this is a deeply emotional time in Georgia and America. Gripped by a global pandemic, COVID-19 has threatened the health and well-being of our families and communities. Here in Georgia, this healthcare crisis has created economic hardship. Unemployment numbers and uncertainty is sky high. And during this unprecedented moment, we have witnessed injustice with our own eyes. Georgians are filled with fear, with anger, and righteous impatience. People are hurting, and we have more questions than answers. I support the right to peacefully protest, to honor the life of George Floyd, to demand action. As the cradle of the Civil Rights movement, this is a place where peaceful protests ultimately shook up the status quo. The birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., this is a city where his legacy looms, urging us to seek justice, love mercy, and treat each other fairly with kindness and respect. What started as a peaceful protest on Friday ended in violence and destruction. A powerful moment was ultimately corrupted by some with a different agenda.
“From the start, we have worked with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ office and local law enforcement to provide assistance and support. At their request, I deployed the Georgia National Guard and hundreds of law enforcement officials to key locations across the city. And over the past several days, we have provided reinforcements to Atlanta as well as communities across Georgia to enhance public safety and preserve peace. I’m proud of these men and women who – at a moment’s notice – were on the ground, working to protect people and property. But to be clear, I am also outraged that these Georgians are now in harm’s way because some are using this moment to riot, loot, and compromise the safety of our citizenry. Violence and destruction is unacceptable, and we will continue to do our part – in conjunction with local leaders – to plan, mobilize, and respond appropriately to threats that undermine our safety. We will do what’s necessary to keep the peace. I still have hope that we can emerge from this stronger and more united. I believe that our best and brightest days are still to come. This is a moment to unite as Georgians and find solutions to the problems that we face. We can overcome these incredible challenges together.
“I know that most are trying to protest in a productive way without compromising their safety or others’. One story that we were made aware of actually happened yesterday. There was a group of peaceful protestors moving down Auburn Avenue as we neared the curfew. GSP troopers were on hand because that section of the street is close to the interstate. The troopers reported that the leader of the group reminded fellow protestors of the curfew and asked them to leave once they got back to their cars after a successful, peaceful day. These are the kind of folks who are having their voices heard and inspiring real change. I deeply appreciate them doing things the right way and speaking out against the injustice that we have witnessed. Speaking of our law enforcement officers and state personnel, thank you to all of the men and women who are working night and day – with very little rest – here at the State Operations Center. And thank you to all of the local leaders, law enforcement, members of the Georgia National Guard, community leaders, and citizens who have helped us prepare for non-violent protests and mobilize the right resources on the ground. Over the past few days, your partnership has been truly invaluable.
“On Thursday in Brunswick, Gregory and Travis McMichael will appear for preliminary hearings following their arrests for the death of Ahmaud Arbery. We will have a strong state law enforcement presence in the region to support local government, including Georgia State Patrol, Department of Natural Resources officers, National Guard troops, GEMA officials, and related state agencies on hand. And we will take appropriate action to hold bad actors accountable if they try to infiltrate peaceful gatherings to cause chaos. Let me be clear: we will not tolerate disruptive, dangerous behavior or criminal conduct. We will put the safety of Georgians first.
“In a few minutes, I am going to ask Dr. Kathleen Toomey to directly address the expected impact of protests over the weekend on our COVID-19 numbers based on her expertise as an epidemiologist. We are obviously monitoring the impact, and we encourage all law enforcement – along with those who were participating in the demonstrations – to get tested immediately. Dr. Toomey is working closely with Dr. Paxton at the Fulton County Board of Health to establish a pop-up testing site next week in South Fulton for people who participated in the protests.
“As we take measured steps forward to put Georgians back to work, we continue to see positive progress in our fight against COVID-19 with increased bed capacity, reduced hospitalizations, and a decreasing percentage of positive cases out of total cases. And we continue to be grateful for partnerships with our local hospitals who are on the front line battling this virus and supporting their efforts. To date, we have distributed more than 18,440 vials of Remdesivir, and we are receiving another 4,520 vials today. Hospitals continue to report initial positive results from this treatment, and we remain hopeful that more treatments like it are on the way. While encouraged, we’ll continue to monitor key metrics. And as usual, we will use data, science, and the advice of Dr. Toomey to chart the path forward.
“Over the last three months, Dr. Toomey, her team, and the District Health directors’ staff at the local departments of health have worked tirelessly to respond to COVID-19. They have established more than 150 testing sites, conducted more than 151,000 tests, and continue to be an integral part of our response in this crisis. Their hard work continues. You may see a temporary decline in the number of tests administered due to the Georgia National Guard’s role assisting local law enforcement with protest activities. These men and women in uniform will return to fulfill their original mission when the streets are safe.
“Today several new improvements were made to DPH’s COVID-19 Daily Status Report webpage. As I have said numerous times, citizens – and members of the press – need accessible, timely, and accurate data. These changes make the DPH webpage more user-friendly while providing a comprehensive picture of where we are in our fight against COVID-19. The webpage will now update once daily at 3 PM, allowing DPH officials more time to process and confirm lab and public health lab reports on cases. DPH has reordered some key metrics to make data more easily digestible. The website now provides a breakdown of testing based on molecular and serological tests along with the percent positive for each test type, and the demographic charts have been redesigned to clearly present the data in a user-friendly manner.
“Before I turn it over to Dr. Toomey, I want to renew some calls to action. Please continue to follow public health advice and mitigate your risk of exposure. We are still battling a pandemic, and we need to stay vigilant. Wear a mask, keep your distance, and wash your hands regularly. We’re starting to see more patients return for regular screenings, but we’re also seeing an increase in more serious diagnoses because people have delayed medical intervention. Don’t skip medical appointments. Prioritize your health.
“We’re in this fight together – the fight against COVID-19, the fight to revive our economy, and the fight to ensure liberty and justice for all. Please pray for our state and country. Pray for peace and for a better, brighter tomorrow. And with that, I’ll turn it over to Dr. Toomey.”