Floyd Medical Center B-20 unit

This May 2020 file photo shows a Georgia Emergency Management Agency 20-bed mobile intensive care unit that has been in use at Floyd Medical Center to assist with COVID-19 patient overflow at the hospital.

The Georgia Department of Public Health reported that Floyd County lost six more people on Friday to COVID-19 as September continued on the path to being the deadliest month this year for the pandemic.

Hospitalizations have continued at a crest with 221 people hospitalized at local hospitals. A Floyd County Emergency Management report released at 2:47 p.m. Friday listed 124 COVID-19 patients at Floyd Medical Center and 97 patients at Redmond Regional Medical Center.

Locally, and across the state, hospitals are full. The Georgia Geospatial Information Office is reporting that inpatient beds across the state are at 87% capacity, ICU beds are at 98% capacity and Emergency Department beds are at 80% capacity.

Across the state 32.9% of the patients filling those beds are COVID-19 patients, locally in Region C which includes Floyd County 38.7% of people hospitalized are COVID-19 patients.

Biden, Kemp trade barbs over mandate

The war of words between President Joe Biden and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp over new White House COVID mandates continued Friday afternoon, with Kemp accusing the administration of playing “pandemic politics.”

“Look, the public already doesn’t trust the federal government because of the mixed messages about the coronavirus,” Kemp told Capitol Beat. “This is pandemic politics from a president who promised to unite the country, but instead is dividing us.”

On Thursday, the Biden White House issued a new, six-pronged series of COVID mandates, including a requirement for all employers with more than 100 workers to mandate either vaccinations or weekly tests.

“This is the wrong way to go,” Kemp said. “Small business owners already don’t have enough people in the workforce, and now they’re being asked to be the vaccine police.”

Earlier Friday, Biden responded to ABC News when asked about threats to challenge his vaccine measures in court.

“Have at it,” the president said. “Look, I am so disappointed that, particularly some of the Republican governors, have been so cavalier with the health of these kids, so cavalier of the health of their communities. We’re playing for real here. This isn’t a game.

“It’s the president who’s being cavalier about the virus,” Kemp responded. “We’re allowing our local school superintendents to determine what is best for their kids. How in the world can President Biden figure out what is best for our local schools?”

“I don’t know of any scientist out there in this field who doesn’t think it makes considerable sense to do the six things I’ve suggested,” Biden said. “We’ve got to come together. … The vast majority of the American people know we have to do these things.”

Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan also criticized the president’s plan, saying the new mandates “only served to harden the partisan lines around an issue that requires all of us working together and not against one another. I believe the vaccine is safe, effective and the only real way out of this awful pandemic, but mandates have not and will not be the answer, as President Biden has previously stated before reversing course.

“Forcing hard-working Americans to choose between mandated personal health decisions and a paycheck will neither reduce vaccine hesitancy nor move this country in a positive direction,” Duncan added.

State parties respond

Georgia Democrats and Republicans also weighed in Friday on the debate over COVID-19 mandates.

“With Georgians dying and our state’s hospitals overwhelmed from COVID-19, Kemp is fighting everyone and everything except the virus,” said Rebecca Galanti, spokeswoman for the Democratic Party of Georgia. “Between banning local governments from trying to slow COVID-19 spread and picking public fights with the federal government, Kemp is putting his own politics ahead of saving Georgians’ lives.”

The Georgia Senate Republican Caucus issued a statement saying its members have worked “to ensure that vaccines are easily available to everyone who chooses to get the shot. We have encouraged unvaccinated individuals to take this virus seriously and make their health-care decisions in consultation with their doctor. Our approach has struck the appropriate balance between government responsiveness and personal responsibility.

“President Biden’s one-size-fits-all mandates are widely overreaching and exceed the bounds of his authority,” the caucus said. “They may also set a dangerous precedent for federal executive action beyond the issue of COVID-19.”

On Friday, the latest numbers from the state Department of Public Health showed 1.15 million Georgians have contracted coronavirus since the pandemic began in March 2020, with more than 20,580 deaths and 75,928 hospitalizations.

Kemp has long maintained that Georgia will not lock down again or impose statewide mask mandates. Biden’s new directives didn’t change his mind.

“I will pursue every legal option available to the state of Georgia to stop this blatantly unlawful overreach by the Biden administration,” Kemp posted on his Twitter account

Speaking from the White House Thursday, Biden said the estimated 80 million Americans who have not been vaccinated have made COVID-19 “a pandemic of the unvaccinated.

“And it’s caused by the fact that despite America having an unprecedented and successful vaccination program, despite the fact that for almost five months free vaccines have been available in 80,000 different locations, we still have nearly 80 million Americans who have failed to get the shot.”

Tim Darnell with Capitol Beat News Service and Rome News-Tribune editor John Bailey contributed to this report.

Recommended for you