News & Politics

Dear Media, Governor Kemp Will Accept Your Apology Now

Georgia Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp speaks a day before the Election Day at Peachtree DeKalb Airport on Monday, Nov. 5, 2018. (Hyosub Shin/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

When Governor Brian Kemp announced that the state of Georgia would make the initial steps toward reopening the economy, the media went on the attack. He was called irresponsible and it was predicted Georgia cases would skyrocket.

Also-ran Stacey Abrams jumped into the fray as part of her audition for Joe Biden’s vice presidential slot. She called Governor Kemp “dangerously incompetent” during a national media appearance with Gayle King. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms also called the governor’s plan reckless and the media trumpeted warnings of a second wave. Even Fox’s Martha MacCallum challenged Kemp on his plan during an interview at the time:

During that interview Kemp was clear. He had worked closely with public health officials to make the decision to begin the reopening process. Kemp made it clear that the state was not given carte blanche to reopen and resume normal operations. He was also clear that the health system was bleeding money because they were empty. The outline for testing and mitigation was also laid out. MacCallum said everyone would be watching Georgia because of his early moves to implement the Phase 1 guidelines. Kemp expressed confidence in the business owners and the citizens to make good decisions and protect each other using the guidelines the state was putting out.

Well, the results are in and the media can now apologize for the savaging of my governor. Since the tentative reopening on April 24, the state has not seen a spike in the percentage of positive cases or hospitalizations. Kemp and his team are measuring this correctly.

The entire purpose of mitigation was to protect the hospital system and ensure those critically ill with COVID-19 could be adequately cared for. Georgia has a more than adequate capacity to deal with a hot spot. Despite increased testing, a lower percentage are testing positive—even with increased mobility and business operations. Given the number of asymptomatic and mild cases we know exist, measuring the results against the capacity of the healthcare system to treat severe cases is the best measure of success. Not new cases.

Additionally, like many other states, Georgia has seen a significant portion of the deaths related to coronavirus occur in nursing homes. According to an analysis done by Phil Kerpen and a colleague using state-level data, nursing homes account for 48.2% of coronavirus deaths in Georgia. Governor Kemp ordered 100 National Guard troops to assist in ensuring infection-control procedures and other protocols were being implemented in these facilities to reduce transmission and preserve hospital resources in early April. Nationwide the analysis shows that over 50% of deaths are occurring in nursing home facilities. This should be a major focus for all governors to reduce deaths and save lives.

As I have started to return to normal activities like shopping at retail stores and enjoying a meal out, I see a lot of happy people. Store clerks are friendly, even though they are behind plexiglass. Servers are happy to be back at work and learning to adjust to wearing the required masks. Outdoor venues like golf courses and patio seating are very popular. I do not see mass panic. Nor do I see employees not happy to be back at work. There is a rumor my gym will reopen Friday and I can’t wait. They have already sent members reasonable social distancing and hygiene guidelines that I am confident my fellow gym rats will follow.

I am extremely proud of Governor Kemp for not caving to the mob who were denouncing his reopening plan. Georgia is proving with measured and careful steps forward we absolutely can do two things at once. Let the economy come back and protect the vulnerable to the best of our ability. Locally, I am already hearing calls to increase restaurant capacity to 50% so staff do not have to turn customers away.

So, I will await the glowing news coverage of Governor Kemp’s success at leading the country in the effort to reopen. And of course, the apology from Stacey Abrams. However, I won’t hold my breath.