Hope Isn’t Cancelled
Georgia’s Governor is running our state like an authoritarian dictatorship, and it’s not sitting well with local leaders. In a recent AJC “Power Poll”, respondents made it clear that local elected leaders should be able to protect their communities with public health ordinances that are more strict than the Governor’s orders. As Doraville City Council Member Stephe Koontz stated, “Local conditions will many times require laws that are stricter than state laws. … Let us do the job the people elected us to do!” As these voices of local leadership rise in unison, it tells me that “hope isn’t cancelled.”
Here’s What is Not Going Well
Our hospital ICUs are teetering on full: On June 30th, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency reported 1,459 active COVID-19 hospitalizations. As of July 30th, that number has more than doubled to 3,200. The AJC reported Athens and Tifton have run out of critical care beds. Another rural hospital, Southwest Georgia Regional Medical Center, has decided to close its doors. Located in the town of Cuthbert, the hospital is unable to recover from the financial blow COVID-19 brought last spring. Cuthbert is in one of the hardest hit regions of the state.
Testing struggles to meet the need: All 50 states must compete for supplies, due to the massive failure of Trump’s leadership. Public labs have been inadequately funded for years, and private labs are so backlogged results come in too late to support effective contact tracing. Georgia is testing at one-third the national average (GA: 501 per 100,000 people; National Average: 1,657 per 100,000 people).
Schools and universities are about to open: When Governor Kemp allowed summer youth camps to open last spring, he unknowingly initiated an experiment about whether children can be spreaders. After an outbreak at north Georgia YMCA camps, the CDC took note. Seventy-five percent of the YMCA campers and staff tested were positive for COVID-19. The overall rate of infection was 44%, which is an undercount, because this includes 250 for whom test results were not available.
Ambulance services may become inadequate: Over the last decade, ambulance services have been privatized. Operating on a profit motive means that medical transport companies constantly strive for a sweet spot — how few ambulances can they maintain in the fleet and still arrive in time without someone dying? Every time an ambulance is “stalled” at a hospital due to admissions delays, the overall fleet is reduced which slows response times. And the ambulance companies, instead of adding to their fleet, point fingers at the hospitals. What that means is that right now, if you need an ambulance, it might not be there for you.
Here’s What Can Still be Done
Be Careful: Dunwoody Mayor Lynn Deutsch recently shared some advice from a local doctor, who reported that his number of weekly patients sick with COVID-19 had risen from 5 to 30. Though patients reported having been “careful,” three situations were commonly described: 1) outside cul-de-sac gatherings; 2) dining-in at restaurants; and 3) indoor family get-togethers. Now, even more than during April and May, it’s best to restrict your contact with people outside your immediate circles.
It’s Actually Not Hopeless: As more people personally know someone who has been hospitalized due to COVID-19, it’s hopeful that more people will take the situation seriously, reduce unsafe behavior, and start wearing a mask in public.
Hospitals Can Still Add Beds: In April, the Governor’s Executive Order called for surgi-centers and scheduled/elective surgeries to be temporarily halted. Though this Order ended in May, hospitals still have the option to pull that lever, making more room for COVID-19 patients. Additionally, all hospitals have “surge plans” in place, outlining how they will add beds and staff. Finally, according to GEMA data, only about half of the state’s ventilator supply is in use.
Fight the Governor’s “Local Governments Can’t be More Restrictive” Order: As the Governor threatens to sue and silence Atlanta Mayor Bottoms over her mask mandate and other restrictions, this week the Senate and House Democrats filed an opposition brief in Fulton County Superior Court. Last March, the Georgia General Assembly voted to give Governor Kemp broad emergency powers to protect the lives of Georgians. This power can also be revoked by the legislature. Brookhaven Rep. Matthew Wilson, who is taking the lead on the House side, stated in the AJC, “The governor’s lawsuit against Atlanta’s mayor and city council does the opposite of that — it puts more Georgians directly in harm’s way, all to score a few political points.” While Democrats don’t have the votes to overturn these gubernatorial emergency powers alone, pressure from cities all over Georgia, 100 of whom have passed their own mask mandates, could potentially influence Republicans to join Democrats in revoking the Governor’s emergency powers.
* I borrowed the phrase “Hope Isn’t Cancelled” from a 5/10K “on your own” Face Mask Run that donates part of your fee to purchase a front-line worker a take-out meal. And you get a t-shirt with the “Hope Isn’t Cancelled” logo. I’m planning on doing it. How about you?
P.S. Our Fundraising Committee is working hard to ensure we have enough money in our bank account to fight off any attempts by Republicans to regain Senate 40. If you haven’t contributed yet, we still need your help! Thanks to all who have donated already.