The Georgia Coalition 2 Save Lives, which the Southern Center is proud to be a member of, has requested a meeting with Gov. Kemp to discuss ideas to promote health and safety, and to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our state.
There is an on-going need for proactive local action to stem this pandemic, particularly because the pandemic has not impacted all communities equally.
Recent data from the CDC shows that 83% of Georgians hospitalized with the coronavirus are Black. This troubling statistic “merits tailoring and targeting life-saving measures to communities of color, the elderly, and within Georgia’s extremely vulnerable prison populations, whose infection and death numbers are increasing rapidly.” The Coalition calls for an “ethical and moral response plan that addresses both the health and economic implications of the COVID-19 crisis,” including input from Black community and political leaders.
Gov. Kemp’s orders allowed the reopening of certain businesses, such as nail salons and bowling alleys, on April 24, added dine-in restaurants and movie theaters April 27, and lifting a state-wide shelter-in-place order on May 1, even after renewing the Public Health State of Emergency on April 30. The lack of uniform guidance has led to widespread gathering in public spaces with little observance of social distancing or masking recommendations.
“All of us are alarmed by the images we see of people interacting in public without adhering to safety measures,” the letter stated. “This poses a risk not only to their own health, but also the health of the general public, including essential workers, employees of newly reopened businesses and people in vulnerable and rural communities.”
Federal guidelines informed by public health experts recommend sheltering in place until 14 days after there has been a downward trend in new cases. But in the absence of such an order, combined with the current lack of access to COVID-19 and antibody testing and contact tracing, there are certain practical and proactive steps which can and should be taken to protect the public. These include mandated supply and distribution of personal protective equipment such as masks and hand sanitizers in public spaces and businesses, along with official recommendations that people wear masks whenever they leave their homes.
GC2SL has also reached out to local city and county governments, volunteering time, support, and consultation, including a model local ordinance calling for the widespread use of face masks that they can use in their own efforts to protect their communities. The coalition plans to meet with local government leaders today.