Coronavirus:

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State & Regional Govt & Politics
Kemp rejects statewide shutdown to contain coronavirus
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Kemp rejects statewide shutdown to contain coronavirus

FILE: Gov. Brian Kemp. (PHOTO: REBECCA WRIGHT / The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Kemp rejects statewide shutdown to contain coronavirus

Faced with looming shortages, Gov. Brian Kemp urged hospitals to cancel elective procedures to conserve life-saving supplies essential to combating the coronavirus pandemic. 

And he echoed an approach he’s emphasized all week by repeating that he has no immediate plans to mandate a statewide quarantine or impose restrictions, bars and other businesses. 

At a press conference from his office in the Capitol, Kemp said he’s listening to health experts who are “saying, ‘Do not do this at this time.’”

“There are no easy answers and the guidance continues to change,” said Kemp, adding that “we must remain dynamic and responsive to weather this storm.” 

The governor said he’s taken “immediate action” to coordinate deliveries of key medical supplies and that officials are assessing the state’s medical stockpile. But he didn’t provide any details on the remaining trove of supplies.  

“There’s no doubt, without a question, we’re going to need these resources in the days and weeks ahead, as the number of Georgia cases continues to rise,” he said, adding: “We are going down every nook and cranny to find resources.”

President Donald Trump earlier Thursday said the federal government is not a “shipping clerk” and that the onus is on governors to obtain the equipment to combat a pandemic that’s sickened at least 287 Georgians and killed 10.

Kemp also said he is considering suspending the state’s certificate of need law to make it easier for new healthcare facilities to open. And he said he’s weighing whether to give nurse practitioners freer rein to respond to the crisis. 

He spoke in a press briefing live-streamed on Facebook to limit exposure to the disease. In a usually cramped office, he was flanked by just two figures: His health commissioner and a sign language specialist.

Here’s some other elements of his briefing:

Restrictions on public gatherings

The pressure on Kemp to restrict gatherings increased on Thursday as Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms ordered the closure of all restaurants, bars, nightclubs, gyms, movie theaters and other businesses where people congregate within the city limits. 

Concerned about government “overreach,” the governor has resisted using his emergency powers to mandate similar closures across the state. That’s at odds with a growing number of other governors who have announced restrictions.

Kemp suggested his decision could soon shift. 

“I am however leaning on the advice of medical professionals and scientists, as well as urging local officials to do what is in the best interest of their communities, to keep communities safe and to stop the spread of the coronavirus,” he said. 

“We are all in this fight together, and together we will emerge stronger than ever.” 

HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Paul Beamon, vice president of emergency medical services at AmeriPro EMS, unpacks supplies bought from local stores at AmeriPro EMS in Riverdale on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. As Atlanta falls deeper into the grips of the coronavirus pandemic, medical professionals are having trouble finding enough supplies and equipment to treat patients and protect health care providers. Manufacturers in China and elsewhere say not enough products are being shipped over to the U.S. to handle the growing number of cases. As a greater sense of desperation takes hold, some medical professionals are using creative ways to find supplies, including purchasing masks from painting companies and going to Home Depot. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
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Supply shortages force health systems to devise own work-arounds

Photo Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Paul Beamon, vice president of emergency medical services at AmeriPro EMS, unpacks supplies bought from local stores at AmeriPro EMS in Riverdale on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. As Atlanta falls deeper into the grips of the coronavirus pandemic, medical professionals are having trouble finding enough supplies and equipment to treat patients and protect health care providers. Manufacturers in China and elsewhere say not enough products are being shipped over to the U.S. to handle the growing number of cases. As a greater sense of desperation takes hold, some medical professionals are using creative ways to find supplies, including purchasing masks from painting companies and going to Home Depot. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Testing

The governor emphasized his plan to ration tests to those most at risk of coronavirus infection, such as older residents, and those on the front lines of the emergency, such medical workers and first responders.

“The best way to serve the public is protect those who are protecting us,” he said, adding: “The more we test, the more we will find.”

Legislative shutdown

Dr. Kathleen Toomey, the head of Georgia’s public health department, was asked why state officials urged that all 236 state lawmakers and dozens of others exposed by a state senator who tested positive for the disease should go into self-quarantine. 

“That recommendation was not any different than we could make to a church or a school,” she said. “It’s the right thing to do. We’re so concerned that we want to stop transmission wherever possible.”

Dobbins Air Reserve Base

There are still 209 cruise ship passengers at the Marietta facility awaiting transfer to their homes, said Kemp, who earlier requested the Trump administration to leave a medical center at the facility intact even after the passengers are removed to help treat metro Atlanta residents as the pandemic spreads.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Phoebe Putney Health System in Albany recently set up a tent for drive-thru testing for COVID-19 and its virus, the novel coronavirus. CONTRIBUTED BY PHOEBE PUTNEY HEALTH SYSTEM
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Why it’s important to focus on the facts of COVID-19 and not the noise

Photo Credit: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Phoebe Putney Health System in Albany recently set up a tent for drive-thru testing for COVID-19 and its virus, the novel coronavirus. CONTRIBUTED BY PHOEBE PUTNEY HEALTH SYSTEM

Dougherty County

The governor said he was “very concerned” about the growing number of coronavirus cases in southwest Georgia traced to two recent funerals. 

“This situation cannot be more serious,” he said. “Social distancing. Stay at home if you could have potentially attended one of those funeral services.”

State budget

Anticipating a deep hole in Georgia’s budget, the governor asked Trump to set aside significant funding to shore up state spending plans. State leaders quietly acknowledge the $27.5 billion spending play they just approved could be in ruins in months as tax revenue dries up. 

“Unlike the Recession, when things went down slowly, when states had time to prepare at the end of the year, we’re all facing drastic revenue drops,” Kemp told Trump at a teleconference. “The idea of a block grant to the states to help fill revenue shortfalls would be something I’d like for you to consider.”

The president was non-committal, saying he’ll “consider everything you said.”

Tip line

The governor urged Georgians to call a tip line at 1-844-442-2681 to share public health information and connect with medical professionals. He said the line receives roughly 800 calls a day. 

Read More

News

  • More than 860,000 people worldwide -- including more than 189,000 people in the United States – have been infected with the new coronavirus, and the number of deaths from the outbreak continues to rise. Officials are attempting to contain the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. as hospitals brace for unprecedented patient surges. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking cases in the U.S. here. Live updates for Wednesday, April 1, continue below: UK races to convert convention hall into country's biggest ICU to handle coronavirus overflow Update 4:21 a.m. EDT April 1: The NHS Nightingale will open its doors this week on London’s East End in a bid to ease the United Kingdom’s anticipated ICU bed shortage. In less than one week, the UK’s National Health Service will have converted the ExCel Center into a 4,000-bed field hospital to handle coronavirus overflow from overtaxed hospitals. To date, the UK has confirmed 25,481 COVID-19 infections, resulting in 1,793 deaths nationwide. Illinois governor says he’s ‘purchasing every ventilator that I can find’ amid coronavirus surge Update 4:05 a.m. EDT April 1: After receiving barely 10 percent of the ventilators he requested to meet rising demand, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said he is personally scouring all available sources in the absence of federal assistance as the novel coronavirus sweeps his state. “I’m purchasing every ventilator that I can find,” Pritzker told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Tuesday, adding, “But we’re buying them in 100 lots and 200 lots. Frankly, I’m taking them 50, 20, 10, wherever I can get them.” Pritzker told Cuomo Illinois requested 4,000 additional ventilators but has received only about 450 to date. “We are going to run out of ventilators, and the federal government really isn’t helping at all,” Pritzker said. Captain of embattled aircraft carrier requests Navy evacuation as coronavirus infects sailors Update 3:17 a.m. EDT April 1: In a letter dated March 30, U.S. Navy Capt. Brett Crozier requested the military evacuation of 90 percent of the 4,000-member crew aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, besieged by the novel coronavirus. Specifically, Crozier asked that the evacuees be moved into isolation on Guam, The Washington Post reported. “Decisive action is required. Removing the majority of personnel from a deployed U.S. nuclear aircraft carrier and isolating them for two weeks may seem like an extraordinary measure,” Crozier wrote, adding, “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our sailors.” Read more here. China announces 1,367 asymptomatic coronavirus cases Update 3:03 a.m. EDT April 1: China’s National Health Commission confirmed on Wednesday it is monitoring a total of 1,367 asymptomatic novel coronavirus infections. According to the commission, 130 of those total cases were diagnosed on Tuesday, alone, while 302 were released from quarantine. To date, China has confirmed a total 82,294 cases nationwide, but it was not immediately clear if that figure includes the asymptomatic cases. Kroger announces $2-per-hour ‘hero bonus’ for employees on coronavirus front lines Update 2:44 a.m. EDT April 1: U.S. supermarket chain Kroger announced early Wednesday it will pay staff members still working amid the worsening novel coronavirus outbreak an additional $2-per-hour “hero bonus.” “Our associates have displayed the true actions of a hero, working tirelessly on the front lines to ensure everyone has access to affordable, fresh food and essentials during this national emergency,” Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement announcing the bonuses. The pay bump – benefitting all front-line grocery, supply chain, manufacturing, pharmacy and call center staff – applies to all hours worked between March 29 and April 18. UN Secretary-General: Coronavirus ‘attacking societies at their core’ Update 2:21 a.m. EDT April 1: Citing the “human crisis” created by the novel coronavirus pandemic, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the collective global response the “greatest test” since World War II. Guterres’ insights were published in a new report released Tuesday. “COVID-19 is the greatest test that we have faced together since the formation of the United Nations,” Guterres stated in the report, adding, “This human crisis demands coordinated, decisive, inclusive and innovative policy action from the world’s leading economies – and maximum financial and technical support for the poorest and most vulnerable people and countries. But this is much more than a health crisis. It is a human crisis. The coronavirus disease is attacking societies at their core.' Read the full report here. US coronavirus deaths hit 4,076, total cases top 189K Update 12:31 a.m. EDT April 1: By early Wednesday morning, the number of novel coronavirus cases in the United States neared 200,000 across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, there are at least 189,510 confirmed U.S. cases of the virus, which have resulted in at least 4,076 deaths. U.S. cases now outnumber those in any other nation by wide margins, including the 105,792 reported in Italy and the 95,923 confirmed in Spain. Of the confirmed U.S. deaths, 1,550 – or nearly half of the nationwide total – have occurred in New York, 267 in New Jersey and 259 in Michigan.  In terms of diagnosed cases, New York remains the hardest hit with at least 75,795 confirmed cases – or roughly four times the next-closest state – followed by New Jersey with 18,696 and Michigan with 7,615. Three other states have now confirmed at least 6,000 novel coronavirus cases each, including: • California: 6,932, including 150 deaths • Florida: 6,732, including 84 deaths • Massachusetts: 6,220, including 89 deaths Meanwhile, Illinois, Louisiana and Washington state each has confirmed at least 5,000 novel coronavirus infections; Pennsylvania and Georgia each has confirmed at least 4,000 cases; Texas and Connecticut each has confirmed at least 3,000 cases; and Colorado, Tennessee, Ohio and Indiana each has confirmed at least 2,000 cases. Click here to see CNN’s complete state-by-state breakdown.
  • Running out of ideas for fun family activities to do indoors amid coronavirus stay-at-home orders? You may want to follow Shaquille O’Neal’s lead. According to Fox News and USA Today, the former basketball star-turned-DJ shared a now-viral video Monday of himself putting on a concert for his two sons, stepson and nephew from his kitchen. Less than a minute into the clip, the party turns raucous as two of the boys jump onto the kitchen counter and show off their dance moves. “Don’t be down,” O’Neal, who performs under the name DJ Diesel, captioned the clip, which had been viewed more than 4.7 million times by Wednesday morning. “Be safe love yall,” he continued. “Oneal boys kitchen concert.” >> Watch the video here Read more here or here.
  • A Charlotte, North Carolina, mother who was desperately trying to protect her twin baby boys just learned her entire family was exposed to the coronavirus by a Spectrum technician. “He told me the tech that had been at our house had just tested positive for COVID-19, and my heart just stopped,” said Emily Beaty. The mother said she has been protecting her twin baby boys since they were born 26 weeks premature. She called Spectrum last week to have her internet serviced. She said she asked the customer service representative the steps that the company was taking to protect customers from exposure to COVID-19. 'They were taking this situation very seriously. They were prescreening their employees, and all of their employees were healthy,” she said. She said the tech arrived at her home and started doing work outside. Her husband saw him cough briefly outside. Eventually, the tech came inside to quickly finish up before leaving, she said. Four days later, she said Spectrum called her and said the tech tested positive for COVID-19. 'I just don't feel like they were doing a proper screening. I mean, they sent a tech out to my house that had a cough and not two days later, he is being tested for coronavirus,' Beaty said.A spokesperson for Spectrum sent WSOC-TV the following statement: “We have confirmed that one of our Charlotte-based technicians has tested positive for COVID-19. We immediately contacted the customers recently served by this technician, as well as the technician’s co-workers. “We learned this technician was not feeling well on March 25 (Wednesday) and sent the technician home immediately. The technician sought medical attention and was subsequently tested. When we confirmed the positive test on March 27 (Friday), we began contacting customers served by this technician and co-workers. “We are continually communicating and educating our staff on best practices according to the CDC health and safety guidelines, such as proper hygiene and social distancing. We are encouraging all technicians to take their temperature at home before reporting for work. We have made clear, including in a message directly from our chairman and CEO to all employees that any employee who is sick, or who is caring for someone who is sick, should stay home. If an employee needs to self-quarantine, they will not need to use their paid sick leave, but will continue to be paid and receive full benefits while under quarantine. The company also has given every worker an additional 15 days of COVID-19-related paid time off, and hourly workers who do not use this time during the COVID-19 pandemic will be paid out the remaining unused days at the end of the year.
  • A 'Stranger Things' star and her family have donated tens of thousands of meals to food banks amid the coronavirus pandemic. According to the Albuquerque Journal, 16-year-old actress Millie Bobby Brown took to Instagram on Friday to announce that she and her family had given 20,000 meals each to food banks in New Mexico, where the popular Netflix series had been scheduled to film its next season, and Atlanta, where the show had previously filmed. “While we stay home and do our part to flatten the curve, we must not forget those in need,” wrote Brown, who plays Eleven. “My thoughts are with the great people and crew from Santa Fe, NM whom we didn’t yet get to meet in our company move on ‘Stranger Things.’ In appreciation of this community, my family and I have donated 20,000 meals to The Food Depot, which will provide meals for those hungry in the Northern New Mexico service area.” Brown added: “Also, to all those in Atlanta who have embraced us, to the ST crew and their families, you’re in our thoughts. My family and I have donated 20,000 meals to the Atlanta Community Food Bank, which will provide meals for those hungry in their service area.” >> See the post here Brown also urged her fans to “find enjoyment in the simple things” during social distancing.'Reflect on the impact of great people and then share the love with others,' she continued. “A special shout-out to those who have supported me, inspired and empowered me, whom I admire and just make me happy.” Several other celebrities, including Angelina Jolie, Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Kylie Jenner and Arnold Schwarzenegger, also have made large donations to organizations that are helping with coronavirus relief efforts. Read more here or here.
  • You may be seeing a lot of empty shelves at grocery chains and other stores. But a 17-year-old Georgia high schooler is bringing relief to stressed people across the country who can’t find cleaning and paper products. WSB-TV’s Wendy Corona learned he’s doing it all while self-isolating. Blake Rand is a skilled computer programmer. With his school closed because of coronavirus, he also has a lot of time on his hands. Recently, his mother came to him with a problem. “My mom needed supplies, as everybody else does, and she couldn’t really find any, so I just went online and just kept looking and looking everywhere and found some,” Rand said. When his grandmother, who has Parkinson’s and can’t leave the house, couldn’t find her supplies online, he was struck with an idea. “I just decided to help out the community and make a website,” Rand said. The website is called Coronafinds.com, and on it are the results of hours of online scouring Rand spends to locate hard-to-find, in-stock products like toilet paper. “It’s just a list of links that are updated daily, and it’ll pretty much just give you the item name, and if you want to purchase an item, you just go to link, and it takes you to a bigger retailer like Target or CVS, and then you can just purchase it there,” Rand said. He told Corona that the products can almost always be found on major retailer sites; you just have to sift through hundreds of choices. “Like a lot of people don’t look at like the Dollar General and those kind of stores, Boxed. I try to find, like, smaller stores, too, because those usually have a lot in stock,” Rand said. Needless to say, his family is doing pretty well on supplies. “I got enough. I’m not hoarding, though, but I have enough,” Rand said. Blake said he is looking in to automating Coronafinds.com. Also, in his spare time, he does security research to find vulnerabilities in sites like Apple and Snapchat.
  • At the beginning of the spread of the novel coronavirus in December 2019, we didn’t really have an idea of just how quickly the virus could spread. It was when COVID-19 was officially declared a global pandemic that the situation became very real for the entire world - especially those in countries where the virus had already spread far and wide and claimed hundreds of lives on a daily basis. So far, it’s become clear that obtaining as much data as possible is the best way to combat the virus, mainly by testing as many people as possible and ensuring we have the appropriate approach to deal with the numbers. Now, mapping the outbreak is the goal for many tech companies across the globe as we learn more about how and when COVID-19 spreads from person to person. WFXT found two companies that teamed up to show just how far and wide the Spring Break revelers in Florida spread out after congregating at a single beach during a national call for social distancing in early March. Mapping platform Tectonix teamed up with cell phone location data tracker X-mode to create a viral video that shows thousands leaving one Florida beach over Spring Break, fanning out across the country and potentially spreading the coronavirus. “Despite international news, no one seemed to be changing behavior based on what we saw at all, like nothing happened,” said Rob Gresham, Co-Founder of Tectonix. Together, both companies were able to “analyze secondary locations of anonymized mobile devices that were active at a single Ft. Lauderdale beach during Spring Break” and track them as the spread out across the country. Most of the more than 5,000 people in the sample size were headed to the Northeast. Co-Founders of Tectonix, Rob Gresham and Elliott Bradshaw say they hope to apply their mapping technology to other areas and industries impacted by the virus. “We’re looking to apply that technology not just to looking at how Spring Breakers spread coronavirus, but home logistics shipments are moving around the world and how airline trends are being impacted by this type of crisis,” said Bradshaw. Researchers at Boston’s Children’s Hospital and Harvard have developed their own way to map the virus. Using crowdsourcing, https://www.covidnearyou.org/#!/ asks the public to report current symptoms in real time and be identified only by ZIP code. “There really is a lack of understanding of the true burden of this disease across our country, particularly with the limited amounts of testing being done,” said Kara Sewalk, one of the developers of COVID Near You. Sewalk says the goal is to help public health experts and government officials understand how many people are infected on a local, state and federal level. “It’s not meant to replace surveillance of COVID or any other type of illness, but rather to augment existing surveillance systems to supplement the information that we’re collecting across the U.S.,” said Sewalk.