More than 1,400 Georgia healthcare workers sign letter asking governor for more coronavirus restrictions

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp speaks to the media during a press conference at the Georgia State Capitol on April 27, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. The press conference was held to brief the media about the current situation of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in Georgia as the state reopens restaurants for dine-in customers. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
CREDIT: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

(CNN) — More than 1,400 Georgia healthcare workers have petitioned the state’s governor asking that he impose further restrictions to slow the spread of Covid-19.

Georgia has seen the virus surge in the past week, with the number of new cases increasing by over 50%.

In a letter dated Thursday, the healthcare workers ask that Gov. Brian Kemp close bars and nightclubs and prohibit indoor gatherings of more than 25 people, including at places of worship.

The letter also recommends a statewide face covering requirement and asks that the governor allow mayors and county officials to institute requirements appropriate for their jurisdictions.

“During the past week we have seen a sharp spike in cases that cannot be accounted for by increased testing. We also are seeing a very troubling increase in hospitalizations that, if continuing, will overwhelm our healthcare infrastructure, not only in metro Atlanta but also in rural Georgia,” the letter says. “Georgia is simply not prepared for a surge in cases and hospitalizations. You have the power to do much more to save lives and protect our citizens from avoidable illness.”

The importance of masks

Dr. Jesse Couk, an infectious disease specialist based in Atlanta, told CNN by phone Friday night that he worked with other doctors and healthcare professionals to create the letter after he became frustrated with a seeming lack of action in response to the spike in cases.

Couk said he wanted to emphasize the importance of wearing a mask and the need for increased social distancing and further restrictions to slow the spread.

“I wanted to get that message to Gov. Kemp,” Couk said. “I had a lot of concerns I was watching our cases of Covid-19 grow and grow in Georgia and I was seeing increases in hospital admissions.”

Couk told CNN that after being on the front lines of the large case numbers and hospitalizations in March and April he is worried that another spike could send everyone back into isolation.

Kemp this week did a “wear a mask tour” of southwest Georgia, where he was also joined by US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams.

Couk said he’s aware that the governor has been promoting wearing a mask, and credits him for wearing one in southern Georgia where “they are seeing an explosion in cases.” But he said he hoped Kemp would follow in the footsteps of Texas and North Carolina in making masks mandatory.

“We really need more than 90% of people to be wearing a mask in high risk situation like being indoors in public or in crowds outdoors,” Couk said.

“So, we know our cases are going up we know our hospitalizations are increasing,” Couk said. “So the time to act is right now, there’s no reason to wait.”

CNN has reached out to Kemp’s office for a response.

On June 29, Kemp extended the state’s public health emergency, which requires social distancing, bans gatherings of more than 50 people unless there is six feet between each person and calls for sheltering in place at long-term care facilities until July 15. It had been set to expire July 1.

Coronavirus has killed more than 129,000 people and infected over 2.7 million nationwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. It listed Georgia as having 90,493 reported cases.

As infection rates continue rising in 36 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is projecting nearly 148,000 deaths in the US by the end of the month.

On Friday, Johns Hopkins University reported 52,104 new cases in the US and 631 new deaths.

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