ATLANTA – After Governor Brian Kemp spent his Thursday being ridiculed for claiming that he “didn’t know” basic facts about the coronavirus, a new report from the Atlanta Journal Constitution reveals that Kemp’s administration knew about community spread as early as March 2 — a full month before Kemp issued a stay at home order that health experts fear might be “too little too late.”
The AJC report reveals that, in addition to the widespread warnings by national health officials throughout February and March, Kemp’s team received direct warnings about community transmission on March 2, the same day that the first two confirmed cases of coronavirus were announced in Georgia. Two weeks later on March 16th, a public order from Kemp reveals that he knew about community spread and asked nursing homes to restrict visitors because “individuals who seem healthy could visit a facility and unintentionally endanger residents.”
It wasn’t until this week, a full month since Kemp was initially warned about the virus on March 2nd, that he finally took action and enacted a stay at home order. Georgia is now weeks behind in preparedness for the pandemic, and struggling to procure much-needed medical supplies as the state is forced to “play catch up in coronavirus testing.”
“Governors’ decisions have consequences. Georgians have watched governors across the country take action while Brian Kemp ignored warnings that his own administration received,” said Maggie Chambers, spokeswoman for the Democratic Party of Georgia. “This isn’t just incompetence — it’s willful misconduct that Georgia will have to pay for for years to come. Kemp’s refusal to act has already devastated communities across our state. For Georgians’ sake, we can only hope his belated order now isn’t too little, too late.”
The coronavirus is expected to be “particularly brutal” in Georgia, which now has had over 5,400 confirmed cases and 176 coronavirus deaths.
One month after warnings, Kemp puts Georgia on lockdown
Kemp abandoned his earlier declarations that the coronavirus pandemic did not require the extreme measures in Georgia that more than three dozen other states had already dictated.
Kemp’s executive order, which takes effect Friday, represented a dramatic reversal for a governor who had said local officials knew best how to combat the virus in their communities.
But many of those officials, along with public health experts, complained that a patchwork of local social-distancing measures in parts of Georgia could not prevent widespread infections of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Documents obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution show state officials were warned about so-called community transmission as early as March 2. That same day, Kemp announced the first two confirmed cases of the virus.
At his news conference Wednesday, Kemp said the virus “is now transmitting before people see signs,” information he described as “a game changer.”
On March 2, a month before Kemp issued the stay-at-home order, two top state officials received a warning about the dangers posed by people who did not display symptoms of the virus.
Among the officials who received the email were Dr. Kathleen Toomey, the state’s public health commissioner, and Homer Bryson, the director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency.
Following the warning, state officials played down the potential for the virus’ spread. In a statement on March 5, for instance, GEMA said that “at this time, the risk of transmission is LOW,” a sentiment repeated by the governor’s office two days later.