As the United States faces the worst public health crisis in a generation, we want you to know we are here for you — and with you.
Whatever happens, whenever it happens, your newspaper will be there for you. We’ll be there to let you know how our community is managing through this crisis — from business to government to the health care system and schools to the drastic impact on individuals and families.
And we’ll be there to let you know about the good and extraordinary things happening in the midst of this crisis — the school district donating supplies for local health workers, the church leaders who are finding innovative ways to continue services without gathering in the sanctuary, the local businesses who are working hard to stay open and keep employees on, and most importantly the health workers putting themselves in harm’s way to care for the sick.
Amidst the sadness and anxiety, there are uplifting moments that remind us of the resilience of the human spirit, and we’ll be there to document those too.
We are here to help you make sense of the situation and to help you navigate it.
Having fact-based, reliable reporting that provides public scrutiny and oversight is more important than ever. Together, across the decades, this newspaper and its readers have navigated horrific events — natural disasters, terrorism, financial downturns, periods of extreme political and societal division.
This challenge is greater than any of those, but, rest assured, we’ll be here for you. Polk County is resilient, a land where people come together to build and rebuild. Let’s stick together, and we will come through this, too.
—From Kevin Myrick Editor of the Polk Standard Journal
The Cedartown Performing Arts Center should have been crowded with local art lovers enjoying wine, snacks and jazz music this past Saturday night. Instead, like all other public gatherings, it was forced to go on hold.
Yet that doesn’t mean that within the confines of the home, art lovers can’t enjoy the one reason why they came together in the first place: to see the various works on display created by talent from all across Polk County.
So A Night With Local Artists 2020 might not have gotten to spend the weekend enjoying a cultural event in downtown Cedartown — a make-up date is still to be determined at this time — but they can enjoy some of the artwork that was to be featured.
The work of Mae Wyatt was setup in recent days with the help of Cedartown Performing Arts Center Director Oscar Guzman, and her story is one worth sharing.
Mae is a 12 year old abstract artist living with Cerebral Palsy, and requires the use of a wheelchair and devices to help her communicate. Her challenges haven’t kept her from bringing her imagination to life.
Her paintings offer a reminder of the endless possibilities of the human spirit, and distinctive personal style brings out her joy and artistic flare in being able to create.
Mae got into abstract art after she began art therapy as an outlet to express herself. What started as scribbles evolved over time into a variety of artistic creations in utilizing colors and shapes of all kinds — from hearts and crosses to canvases that bring together opposing shades to bring out her passions.
She is helped with her creations by therapists like Lauren Merritt, the founder of HeART Adaptive Arts, and with her family family at home. Mae experienced a burst of creative spirit in the past year with more than 20 pieces sold in a recent show and has been on display at the Piedmont Park Art Show.
Mae’s work is just a collection of the many who will eventually get to show their talents off to Polk County and the surrounding area at large. Check back in for more on when A Night With Local Artists 2020 is rescheduled.
Schools statewide are remaining closed through most of April with a new order from Governor Brian Kemp on Thursday in response to the increasing number of cases of COVID-19 being reported by health officials.
Polk School District will now be closed until April 24, two weeks past the date that teachers and students hoped to be back in the classrooms locally following the conclusion of spring break.
With schools remaining closed for a month, students will report back to school on April 27, if the spread of COVID-19 has curtailed.
“We greatly appreciate our PSD families continuing to work hard on instruction at home,” Superintendent Laurie Atkins said in a letter on the district’s website updating parents, teachers and students on the situation.
This week the district has been distributing packets for Days 11-20, and teachers and staff are “working diligently on creating the packets for days 21-25.”
In case of an additional extension, teachers are being asked to provide assignments if the closure persists. Pickup for packets for Days 21-30 will be held April 15 through April 17, and follow the same procedures that parents have been in place previously.
As the school closure continues, the district has also updated sites for food distribution starting on March 30 after press time, and continuing through April 24.
During Spring Break, no sites will be open due to the schools closing for a deep cleaning using electrostatic foggers.
The grab-and-go breakfast and lunch sites will be open each day from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at Northside Elementary, Van Wert Elementary and Youngs Grove Elementary schools. Those who are utilizing the grab-and-go program at Northside Elementary can find them in the rear of the school building.
Community sites where breakfast and lunch have been available currently will also shift to 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. hours, and are only available to children 18 and under. Multiple meals are being given out one at a time to cover the days for which the district is not distributing meals.
Cedartown area sites are as follows when the new schedule begins on March 30, and will return after Spring Break for students: Old Arrow Shirt Factory Parking Lot – 806 West Avenue – Cedartown, GA 30125 Old Cedartown Paperboard – 312 East Ellawood Avenue – Cedartown, GA 30152 Turner Street Park – 254 Turner Street – Cedartown, GA 30125 Home Depot Parking Lot – 1500 Rome Highway – Cedartown, GA 30125 Polk School District Board of Education – 612 South College Street – Cedartown, GA 30125 Lower Parking Lot of Cedartown High School – 167 Frank Lott Drive – Cedartown, GA 30125.
In Rockmart area, those locations will be as follows: Victory Baptist Church – 15 Hendrix Road – Rockmart, GA 30153 Aragon Baptist Church – 7 West 2nd Street – Aragon, GA. 30104 Old Elm Street School – 100 Morgan Valley Road – Rockmart, GA 30153 Hogue Avenue Gym – 436 Hogue Avenue – Rockmart, GA 30153 Forrest Court – Rockmart, GA 30153.
Check back for additional updates on school closures and procedures for directed learning at home as they become available, or visit www.polk.k12.ga.us for more information.
The City of Cedartown, Rockmart and Polk County have by now determined that a joint resolution requiring that people maintain social distancing practices be enforced, and voted to approve in emergency sessions to enact a measures to curtail potential transmissions any further.
Gatherings of 10 or more people are now prohibited, and officials are asking people to stay in their homes as much as possible until the provisions in the resolution are lifted as the spread of COVID-19 dies down. As of now, no specific date will bring the emergency declaration to an end.
As of week’s end, no additional measures were being taken yet by local governments as protective measures for citizens. However, those decisions may be required as conditions change around the spread of COVID-19.
The resolution is not a shelter in place order, but the cities and county are asking people to stay indoors as much as possible. People who have jobs and scheduled to go in are still able to report to work, and businesses will remain open.
As of last Thursday, all parks and playgrounds are closed across the county.
Among the provisions in the order, restaurants and bars that offer dine-in service will no longer be able to serve patrons on premises, but will be allowed to offer curbside service, and will even allow patrons to purchase unopened alcoholic beverages to take home.
The order — passed by Rockmart, Cedartown, Aragon and Polk County’s councils and commissions — declared a local emergency due to the spread of COVID-19, and it is hoped the provisions within will help slow the spread of the virus and communicable diseases generally.
First, to do so they have specifically prohibited any gatherings of 10 or more people with the following exceptions:
1) Those employers or employees gathered at work
2) People can still go to grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, hardware stores, department stores, building supply stores and the like. However, residents are being asked to maintain whenever possible a six-foot distance between people.
3) Hospitals, doctors offices, and other healthcare facilities
4) What is deemed as “essential infrastructure workforce” as defined by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Those are usually those involved in law enforcement and public safety roles.
Also, anyone who lives in a household with more than 10 people can still stay at home with those within the house.
In-person dining at bars, restaurants or other businesses is closed to the public. Curbside takeout is permitted so long as customers take their food home or elsewhere to consume. Those employed at restaurants are required to keep the six foot bubble between individuals as much as possible as well.
Those restaurants and bars that serve beer, wine and spirits will also be allowed to continue sales, but with the requirement that they leave any alcoholic beverage in a closed container for customers to take home with them.
Those provisions will be further evaluated as the situation surrounding COVID-19 develops.
When passing the order, local officials did address some concerns they had over large gatherings. During a conference call session of the Polk County Commission to consider the resolution, Commissioner Gary Martin wanted the county to determine how best to deal with funeral gatherings.
He doesn’t want services with 10 or more people to be allowed, but also doesn’t want enforcement of the rules to go overboard.
County Manager Matt Denton said that it is his intention to ensure that the rules being followed, but that law enforcement be provided guidance on how to treat situations where public health and safety is in danger due to any gatherings being reported.
“The point of this whole thing is not to punish people, it’s our intent to educate them and help them do the right thing,” Denton said.
Commissioner Chuck Thaxton also noted that with the open-ended resolution in place, he hoped that regular evaluation of conditions as they stand with the spread of COVID-19 will allow for the resolution to expire. Commissioner Ray Carter sought to ensure that weekly updates on the situation to either increase or decrease provisions of the ordinance should be taken up by conference call.
Cedartown City Commissioners, who met in person but held their session on a Facebook live stream for the public, cited the necessities of the time for the new rules to limit public exposure to COVID-19.
“This is just common sense, and I think that common sense will prevail,” Commissioner Dale Tuck said. “I hope that our citizens in Polk County and everywhere will take this seriously.”
Commission Chair Matt Foster added that he hopes everyone who has to travel for work outside of the city limits and Polk County will take precautions and remain safe as well.
“We don’t take this situation lightly,” he said. “This is something I don’t think anyone in Polk County wanted to do. But it is certainly necessary.”
Rockmart Mayor Sherman Ross added that the city is committed to ensuring that everyone stays safe with their passage of the resolution.
“We want people to be aware of the real danger that COVID-19 poses on our community, and that we hope they will follow these provisions as we’ve passed and help end the spread of this outbreak that has disrupted our lives across the globe,” Ross said. “We’re concerned about the potential to overload the healthcare systems, so that is one thing that we’re focused on too. We don’t want to get into a situation where we exceed capacity for taking care of people.”
Unless otherwise noted, the following events and calendar items are still on schedule. For those who are able to note otherwise, please contact email@example.com.
Restoration Church Cedartown will be having their Easter service on Sunday, April 12, 2020 at 11 a.m. at the Cedartown Performing Arts Center, 205 East Avenue. Pastor Danny Rhodes invites everyone to attend.
Cedartown High School Class of 1960 is planning a 60 year Class Reunion on April 25, 2020. We are looking for our classmates. Would anyone who has not received a letter about the reunion and was a member of the class, please contact Ken Waits at 770-748-0420 as soon as possible. We want to include you.
The Polk County Board of Commissioners will continue the Citizen of the Year Award in 2020, and want to honor individuals that have made a positive contribution to the county. Know a volunteer, someone who has committed a selfless act or dedicated their time to special projects locally? Nominate them today for the 2020 Citizen of the Year award at polkga.org/citizen-of-the-year.
The Cedartown High School class of 1970 will have their 50th class reunion on Saturday, April 18, 2020. The event is $20 per person and will be held at the Coca-Cola Museum at 209 South Main Street, Cedartown. The class of 1970 will gather at the Museum from 5-7, and all others are invited to join them from 7-10. The class of 1970 is inviting friends that graduated in 1969, 1971, and 1972 to the event. For more information call Daniel Sims 706-409-8229 or Rick Garner 770-547-6758. Those interested in attending can mail payment to Daniel Sims at 700 Thomas Love Rd, NE, Rome, Ga., 30161. Payment must be received by April 6th.
Interested in becoming a Foster or Adoptive Parent? Open your heart to a child in need and find out how you can help. Join others who seek the love of a child every second Tuesday night of each month at 6 p.m. at Polk County Division of Family and Children Services office, 100 County Loop Road in Cedartown. Information sessions explain what is required to become a foster or adoptive parent in Georgia. For more information call Robin Forston at 404-895-6517 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-877-210-KIDS. Visit www.fostergeorgia.com for more information.
Lutheran Services of Georgia’s Heritage Adoption Program partners with DFCS to find Forever Families for children waiting in Georgia’s foster care system. Information Sessions are held on the third Thursday of every month at 6 p.m. at the Rome Office, located at 336 Broad St., Suite 200. Individual sessions may be scheduled to accommodate families as needed. For more email email@example.com or call 706-506-0649.
Did you know that nationwide the American Red Cross assists 53 people every 60 seconds during personal and local disasters? Our Northwest Georgia Red Cross Chapter serves Polk County. If you’d like to do some meaningful volunteering, please contact Arthene Bressler at 762-231-9896 and visit our website at www.redcross.org/local/georgia.
Do you think you might be pregnant? You can know for sure. Contact Life Matters Outreach today to schedule a free pregnancy test. You have a right to know all the options available to you. We offer free evidence-based education and resources so that you can make a well-informed decision. The services provided at LMO Pregnancy Care Center are free of charge. Clients are treated with respect and unconditional acceptance. We are here to help YOU. Call 770-748-8911 for more information.
Anna Kresge Memorial United Methodist Church will be sponsoring a clothing bank for children ages infant to 5 years old on the first Thursday of each month beginning in September from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. in the conference room of One Door Polk in Cedartown. Contact 770-748-6811 for more information on how to donate or participate in the giveaway.
Victory Baptist Church’s Bread of Life Food Pantry is now open. One bag of non-perishable food, five items to pick from produce, eggs and milk and two items from frozen meats, breads and others will be available. ID is required. Limit of two IDs per address. Regular hours are Mondays, 1 to 3 p.m.; Tuesdays, 5 to 7 p.m.; and Thursdays, 8 to 10 a.m.
Community Share Ministries is hosting “Hope for the Hungry” on the first Tuesday of every month to provide food assistance to the community. They’ll be in town again on Tuesday, June 4. Food is provided free of charge, and no identification is required to get help. Those interested can visit Community Share Ministries Cedartown thrift store at 1116 N. Main St., Cedartown.
The Georgia Legal Services Program’s Claire Sherburne will be on hand at One Door Polk in Cedartown every fourth Monday to help those in need with free civil legal services to low-income persons. This will include all cases related to housing, employment, education, domestic violence, consumer fraud, wills, healthcare and other issues involved in the legal complications of everyday life. Call 404-206-5175 for more information.
The Polk County Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support group will meet monthly on the first Monday at 11 a.m. at Polk Medical Center. Those interested can join for fellowship and lunch in the cafeteria. For more information call John Giglio at 678-246-8188.
Soup and Savior, a local nonprofit organization, meets from 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays to provide needed items to deserving people. This includes a free meal (soup), clothing and gives other assistance. Meetings are held at Glad Tidings, located at 703 Robert L Parks Blvd. in Cedartown. Donations are accepted.
Just Us Ministries Inc. Food Bank has distribution every Tuesday and Thursday at 904 Young Farms Road in Cedartown. On Tuesday the distribution is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon. A picture ID is required. For more information call 770-687-1009 or 678-901-3354, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit Justusministries.com.
A caregivers support group meets on the second Monday of each month at 11 a.m. at Rockmart Presbyterian Church. Call 770-684-6289 for more information.
Take back your life and get help. Narconon can help you take steps to overcome addiction in your family. Call today for free for screenings or referrals at 1-800-431-1754.
EDITOR’S NOTE: On Friday afternoon, Gov. Brian Kemp and Kathleen Toomey, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, spoke to the Marietta Daily Journal via conference call to discuss the state’s response to the spread of the coronavirus. The transcript below has been edited for length and clarity. To listen to the interview with Gov. Kemp and Dr. Toomey, go to the Marietta Daily Journal podcast at http://traffic.libsyn.com/mariettadailyjournalpodcast/kemp_mdj_-_32720_7.16_PM.mp3 or wherever you access your podcasts now.
Q: What is the spread between how many Georgians are being tested daily for coronavirus and how many do you want to see tested?
Kemp: We would like to see testing continue to expand, which it is. If you follow our numbers, you can see that it’s going up drastically every day, especially from where we were just seven to 10 days ago. But there’s also a lot of other things that are coming online. We’ve got the 23 statewide (test) sites that Georgia Department of Public Health has up and running now, plus the work being done at the state lab. But there’s also hospital sites that are doing testing, other private sector people are doing testing. And there’s actually more of that coming and more that we’re working on.
Toomey: This is a good question because testing is such an important part of everyone’s knowledge of coronavirus. Right now we have our test site testing about 160 people a day. Those are the public health-run (sites), but our public health lab is running many more tests. And we have already done about 1,6(00), almost 1,700 tests at the Georgia Public Health laboratory. But as you recall, there are private labs that are also providing tests, not only to our public health sites, but also to private physicians. And we don’t know totally how many of those happen every day. But we know that at least to date, about 7,300 tests have been run by private labs. So there’s two processes going on, both within public health and outside public health. ... What’s the optimum number? I think the optimum number would ideally be to have individuals who are symptomatic be able to be tested. But given the limitation of test materials nationwide, not just in Georgia, we have to follow closely and adhere to the CDC guidance, which prioritizes those individuals to be tested. And those priorities include the elderly and (those) with symptoms, those with chronic health conditions with symptoms and certainly health care workers and first responders. And we, until we have a widespread availability of tests, will be focusing on those high-priority areas.
Kemp: One thing else I would just add, yesterday, we’ve had — it’s really amazing how much constant conversation and back and forth that we’ve been able to have with the president, with the vice president, the national coronavirus task force, all the folks that are on that, certainly with Dr. Fauci and Dr. (Deborah) Birx, and Dr. Birx was making the point yesterday ... she was talking about the new tests that are still coming out that’ll be on the market very quickly, a new type of swab. It’s easier, the individual can do that versus having the physician do it. The results are coming back (for) some of these tests in 15 to 45 minutes. So I mean that’s all good, but they’re just now being deployed. So we don’t know when we’ll see those (in) two or three days or another week or two. But that is coming.
Q: Governor, you mentioned the 23 statewide sites and hospitals, the (testing) locations. So how are we getting the tests to those locations? And how many more do we need to get to those folks so they can get tested?
Toomey: We purchase the test collection material and get those out to the sites through courier. We have just received 500 additional to be shared (at the) sites and so we have a constant order that we ask and are trying to update this fully. I know that the initial order that went out and Dr. (Janet) Memark (director of Cobb & Douglas Public Health) talked about, 30 test kits, was just the first tranche. We anticipate there being many, many, many more tranches of … collection materials to go out to the test sites. And this will be an ongoing process. … We are looking at a number of different partnerships. As recently as today we’re talking about a potential partnership with a pharmacy chain. We’re working internally with the university system to potentially expand testing. As all of that happens and unfolds over the next several weeks, we’ll have access to much, much more testing. ... But right now we purchase the swabs, which is the collection equipment, as it were, (for) those sites and send it out.
Q: What’s being done to assure patrons that the cook staff in restaurants are taking proper precautions from unintentionally sharing the virus.
Toomey: That’s a good question because we have a very close working relationship in public health with restaurants. We work directly with them through our inspection process, (and) we have developed guidance which is being updated to reflect the changing ordinances. We’ll be putting those up on our website as well as sharing them with the Georgia Restaurant Association. We work closely with them, (CEO) Karen Bremer and her team and they will also be distributing them. And part of that guidance is to ensure that staff at the restaurants are not ill when they come to work. That’s critical. So you know, whether you’re at a location where you still have sit down meals with social distancing or takeout, you need to ensure that those staff that are waiting on you are not themselves sick. And that’s part of our guidance that will soon be on the website probably by the close of business today and shared with the restaurant association.
Kemp: I would just elaborate on really what a great job I think our private sector companies have been doing, whether it’s restaurants or other establishments, to just put in, you know, more extensive cleaning. There’s great manufacturers in the state that have stepped up to support the cause, re-tooling to make the critical medical supplies we need. There was a great story in Athens the other day about one small company there that has ramped up using the Classic Center event space for a temporary manufacturing site. They had the spray equipment that people are now using to spray this Clorox-like chemical that is more of a spray versus a wipe-down-type thing. It’s almost like a fogger to kill bugs, except it does cleaning and there’s really been some amazing things that people are doing. ... This whole event, when you think (about) what we’re seeing as adults, but imagine our children, really their habits and lives will change, much like many of ours were on 9/11. ... You know, I was thinking about my kids, they unfortunately may not hug and shake hands like we did a year ago or three months ago after this.
Q: Moving on to ventilators, which has been talked about a lot: What’s the spread between how many ventilators Georgia’s health system has, how many we need and what are you doing to ensure the number is met?
Kemp: We talk about ventilators at least twice a day. … We literally talk about the supplies, not just ventilators, (but) the (personal protective equipment), bed space for potential hospital surges, just anything you can imagine, we’re talking about that on calls twice a day and many times all in-between. … We’re in good shape with ventilators today, we’re going to be in good shape tomorrow. You know what that looks like in a week or two weeks, we don’t know. We have standing orders for ventilators. The problem is every governor in the country and … 159 other countries are looking for ventilators too, so whether we get a ship date on that or not, we don’t know. I spoke to the president and the vice president about this on our call with all the governors earlier this week about that. … Ford, GM, other people are retooling to build more ventilators. There are some in the strategic national stockpile. So we’re continuing to work on that. We actually had some really good news this morning from our call. The National Guard, believe it or not, has some ventilators. They converted those per CDC guidelines to work to meet the needs of specifically the COVID-19 patients. I can’t remember the exact number but I think it was between five and 10. So that’s five or 10 more that we didn’t have available last night that we have available this morning. We’ve shipped quite a few of those down to Albany to help with their situation down there. … To answer the question of what the spread is, you know, that’s the … $24 million question … And that’s really why we need the public’s help. If the public helps us, if they practice social distancing, if they don’t attend and don’t have large events ... if people will simply use good hygiene practices, keep surfaces wiped down, if employers that are still up and running will make sure that their employees know all these things and know not to show up somewhere if they’re sick or if they’re symptomatic, then the number of ventilators that we’re going to need is going to be much less than many people have predicted. … We’re trying to flatten the curve — it got flattened in China. And if we can do that, then all these doomsday scenarios that you see out there never occur. Depending on some of the doomsday data that’s out there, we’re in a really good spot right now, but we’re not taking that for granted. You know, you don’t ever know when a super spreader is going to pop up and you have another hot spot. … We’re not getting allotments like we would like to have because 50% of the cases in the United States of America are in six counties right now, which is really hard to believe. Six counties in the United States. There’s four in New York, one in Illinois and one in Washington. They have 50% of the cases. And you can imagine that is where the ventilators are going.
Q: Governor, some have said the state hasn’t done enough to curb the virus’s spread, while others say the state has gone too far, how can you reconcile these contrasting viewpoints?
Kemp: I believe if the press did an in-depth story on what states are really doing and what decisions and orders are out there that really make a difference, they would see that in Georgia, the orders that I took Monday, to shelter in place, elderly Georgians who are most susceptible to the coronavirus as well as the medically fragile, those that have respiratory-type illnesses, heart disease and other things (who) are susceptible to the virus and make sure that those people stay at home and they’re taken care of and they never end up in the hospital and don’t need a respirator. Limiting large social gatherings, mandatory social gathering distances for basically anybody, any business that’s open, they have to abide by those practices unless they’re kind of an essential industry if you will, where that’s not possible but they’re making a product, they’re supplying a product that is absolutely a positive to respond to the public health crisis, then we’re doing more than any other country. I think when you look — and I’m not trying to criticize other governors or local communities — but a lot of the shelter-in-place orders that you’ve seen, they had so many exceptions or exemptions that it’s really not a shelter in place. And what I have put in does a lot more to target the specific problems that we have in our state from a statewide perspective. And that’s how I reconcile that. You know, trying to keep our economy going, trying to keep hard-working Georgians working ... following these guidelines, not be at risk of community spread and being part of the solution by continuing to be able to pay for their family’s medicine and keep roofs over their head and supply the goods and services that our general public needs, I think is the right place for us to be in right now. I continue to rely on the advice of Dr. Toomey, the members of the coronavirus task force that I’ve had set up since late February.
Q: The grocery store aisles are empty of necessities such as toilet paper. What can be done to prevent people from hoarding necessities?
Kemp: Well, I think one thing that could be done is that people would do as we ask them and remain calm. That’s an easy thing to say and a hard thing to do. I think the 24-hour news cycle that we’re in with especially national cable news talking about this literally 24/7 with a lot of hysteria … has just caused people to treat this like a two-month ice storm. I think the way to combat that from my perspective is for the retailers to do that by limiting the supply that someone can purchase. And also just good community campaigns with great newspapers like yourself telling people, look, the supply chains are open. We have no reason or no will to shut off the supply chain, the grocery stores and things that people must have every day, their food, energy and other things and that they don’t need to panic. … They can buy two or three or four days’ supply and leave some for the neighbors and the stores will be restocked. And I think you’re also seeing a lot of retailers that have been dealing with that issue, many of them are limiting their hours, not staying open all night anymore so they can restock the shelves, have an hour early in the morning where the elderly and more vulnerable populations can come in and shop by themselves. And you know, I certainly applaud our retailers and private sector folks for doing that.
Q: Governor, you’ve said there are “arrows left in the quiver.” What are they?
Kemp: Certainly a shelter in place that’s actually a full-blown lockdown is certainly an arrow that I have left in the quiver that I could use. I would say it would take something pretty extraordinary for me to go that far to do that. I don’t know that the people in our state want me to call the military out and lock people in our homes and I don’t think I’ll have to do that. I think our people ... in some counties may not have been paying attention to this issue or thought it wasn’t as big a deal as what we’re seeing in other counties. ... We’ve got 102 counties out of 159 that have one positive case. I think the awareness is starting to get out there. Certainly the statewide town hall, the number of press interviews that I continue to do and others are doing is raising awareness and people will pay attention and do the right thing and we can curb this virus and get on the back side of this.
Q: Dr. Toomey, a Wellstar Health System physician, Dr. Danny Branstetter, told the public this week that 80% of us will get the virus. Is 80% a reasonable number?
Toomey: I think a lot of that depends on how well we do at mitigating the spread. I’ve seen, I know the governor has also seen a number of projections that have been circulating and models that have shown at 20%, 40%, 60% spread. This virus is very transmissible, it’s more transmissible than the flu. So I think it’s not unreasonable to think that a large proportion of the public may become infected, but this is the situation where avoiding a large crowd, social distancing and hand washing, cleaning surfaces is going to make a difference. I think we have the capacity by following these guidelines of ensuring that that number is 20 to 40%, not 60 or 80%. I think a lot of that depends on how community and the public work together with us. What we hope is that we can minimize the spread … and ensure that our hospitals have the capacity to deal with this virus until the time we have a vaccine which is going to happen, we hope, in a year, year and a half (for) the next time this rolls around if indeed it becomes like influenza and it’s a seasonal virus. So I’m not sure how he made his estimates, there’s a lot of models out there that are floating around with a whole range of options. … But the bottom line is ... what that answer will be is actually dependent on how the public responds to the guidance that the governor has given to the people of Georgia.
Kemp: I don’t know where Dr. Branstetter got his information either, I mean, there’s a lot of models out there. What I would tell people to do is to continue to look at the data that we’re looking at right now in this room that I’m sitting in. And 20.3% of the people that we’re testing are positives. So there’s — a little over 79% of the people that we’re testing are negative … You have probably one of the, if not the, best public health directors in the country with Dr. Toomey. … We’re following the data, the testing data that we have and also what we’re hearing that we know to be fact on the ground in our state so that we can respond to different hotspots, different issues that we may have no matter where they are in the state. And then you have others that are out there throwing out these models based on something that, you know, happened in China or something that happened in South Korea or something that happened in Italy. And unfortunately the public has not read as much as I have or Dr. Toomey has or members of the task force have that are literally living and breathing this 24/7 to try to make good decisions. Because when you look at China, you look at South Korea and look at Italy, you know, in many ways, the curves and the data are very helpful for us to model, but you’re also dealing with completely different circumstances in those countries versus what we’re dealing with right here in Georgia. And that’s why I continue to tell people to follow the information and advice that’s coming out of the governor’s office, Georgia Department of Public Health and from the CDC and the, you know, the task force at the federal level.