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Kemp sending troops amid COVID surge, but not eyeing shutdown

Published: Dec. 29, 2021 at 10:56 AM EST
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ATLANTA - As Georgia leaders work to power through the rapidly growing COVID wave from the ultra-contagious omicron variant of coronavirus, Gov. Brian Kemp said he’s trusting the public to do the right thing

He said in a news conference Wednesday afternoon that he doesn’t plan “any measures that shutter businesses or divide the vaccinated from the unvaccinated or the masked from the unmasked.”

However, in response to the jump in cases, Kemp says he is deploying more than 2,500 National Guard troops to help testing sites and hospitals statewide.

The first troops will be sent in Jan. 3, with about 100 going to strained hospitals and about 100 more going to help COVID testing sites.

Kemp says the state will spend $100 million to boost hospital staffing, which could mean up to 1,000 additional personnel for hospitals, with assignments effective for 13 weeks.

SEE KEMP’S COVID BRIEFING:

The Georgia Department of Community Health will be involved in assessing needs and handing out assignments.

He stressed that mandates and rules for the public aren’t in the plans.

Instead, he said people need to make the decisions that are right for themselves and their families. Anyone who’s on the fence about any health issues such as COVID vaccinations should speak to people they trust, such as their doctors or pharmacists, Kemp said.

Echoing a statement from Georgia Department of Public Health, Kemp urged people not to show up at hospital emergency rooms to get COVID tests, if at all possible. Instead he told them to explore whatever other options are open to them for testing, since emergency rooms are strained right now and will likely be under more pressure in coming days.

Instead, use other testing locations. To find one and register ahead of time to alleviate delays, visit https://dph.georgia.gov/covidtesting.

The Georgia Department of Public Health is actively working to increase capabilities for testing, which has increased by 31 percent in the past week. But for now “lines will continue to be long as thousands of Georgians want to get tested,” DPH said in a statement.

Testing in Georgia

In addition to boosting staffing, the Georgia Department of Public Health is extending testing hours at several sites across the region. People can register for testing at the websites listed below or call 706-721-5800 for additional information.

DPH testing locations include:

  • Richmond County Health Department, 1916 North Leg Road, Augusta: Monday through Friday, including Jan. 3; 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Register at ecphd.com/covidtesting.
  • Augusta University Medical Center, 524 15th St., Augusta: Monday through Saturday except Jan. 1; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Register at https://ecphd.com/aumc-covidtesting.
  • Emanuel County Medical Center, 117 Kite Road, Swainsboro: Monday, Wednesday and Friday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Register at https://honumg.info/LTSGA014
  • Screven County Health Department, 416 Pine St., Sylvania: Tuesdays 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Register at https://honumg.info/LTSGA033.

By the numbers

  • As of this week, at least 60% (6,243,133) of all Georgians have had at least one dose of vaccine and 53% (5,493,230) are considered fully vaccinated.
  • A total of 1,657,846 additional/booster doses (to 15% of the Georgia population and 29% of those fully vaccinated) have been administered.
  • For Georgia residents 60 years of age and older, 1,717,700 have had at least one dose of vaccine (86%), 1,621,848 are fully vaccinated (81%), and among those fully vaccinated, 836,431 have had a booster/additional dose (52%).
  • 132,784 vaccine doses have been given to children aged 5-11 (14% of population 5-11) and 79,725 (8% of total population 5-11) are fully vaccinated. Also, 298,874 adolescents between 12-16 years old have had at least one dose (about 41% of this population) and 265,443 are fully vaccinated (about 36% of this population).

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