'Avoid Crowds,' Kemp Says To Georgians Most Vulnerable To Coronavirus

Mar 12, 2020

Gov. Brian Kemp said people who are older or who have chronic health issues should avoid large crowds while encouraging many state employees to work from home as the footprint of coronavirus spreads in Georgia.

Kemp said the message to combat COVID-19 is largely the same, like wash your hands and avoid large events if you’re sick.

But the newest guidance from the governor’s office and top health leaders is for those who have the highest risk of illness need to take higher precautions.

“We must take extra care around elderly individuals, people with ongoing health issues, and those who have a suppressed immune system,” he said. “We need to help them dramatically limit their exposure to the public for the foreseeable future. Health officials are now telling us that these vulnerable populations need to avoid mass gatherings, and locations with high traffic counts of people, even faith based services.”

The governor said he already made plans with his mother to figure out how she can be safe and prepared.

He also issued a “call to action” for local schools and school systems to take action, though stressed it was not a mandate.

“If you feel that it is prudent, you should consider closing day cares, schools or school districts as early as tomorrow through the next two weeks,” he said. “In addition, county, and local governments should consider what closures might be appropriate that do not affect essential services.”

State government and the state Capitol will not be closed, but non-essential travel has been suspended and many state employees will telework for the near future.

Dr. Kathleen Toomey, the state’s public health commissioner, said testing capacity for the state lab should double by the end of next week.

“We currently can do about 50 tests a day, we hope by the end of next week, we will be able to do up to 100 tests a day,” she said. "We got additional shipments of materials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to allow us to do this testing, and so we have enough for about 500 patients right now.”