COVINGTON, Ga. — Gov. Brian Kemp went on a six-city tour Wednesday and encouraged Georgians to wear masks as COVID-19 numbers continue to escalate.
Kemp was not ready to order a statewide mandate to wear masks, but he urged citizens to continue wearing them while also washing their hands and maintaining distance between one another in social situations.
“We shouldn’t need a mask mandate for people to do the right thing,” Kemp said at a press conference Wednesday.
As of 3 p.m. Wednesday, July 1, the Georgia Department of Public Health reported that Newton County had 616 cumulative confirmed cases of COVID-19. That marked 78 new cases in the county since last Thursday, continuing a recent trend of spiking numbers at the local and statewide levels. However, the county’s death toll continues to remain stagnant at 11.
According to the DPH, Georgia has now had a total of 84,237 cases of the coronavirus, leading to 11,275 hospitalizations and 2,827 deaths.
Doctors at Emory University have recently spoken out and implored Georgians to continue the vigilant fight against spreading infection. Citing the uptick in hospitalizations at Emory Healthcare over the past week, they expressed concern that the state could soon become inundated without better cooperation through mask use, personal sanitation and social distancing.
“I think the best way to show compassion is to wear a mask,” said Dr. Carlos Del Rio, executive associate dean of the Emory University School of Medicine at Grady Health System. “If I care, I wear a mask.”
Dr. Kathleen Toomey, the state’s public health commissioner, joined Kemp on his “Wear A Mask” tour this week. She continued to promote the state’s ongoing contract-tracing initiative, which is designed to help locate and shut down outbreaks within Georgia.
“We’re concerned about the upticks,” Toomey said, “but we can work together to stop this.”
The governor acknowledged the recent increase in hospitalizations, but insisted that local hospitals are prepared for an overflow of patients due to COVID-19.
“Thankfully, [hospitalizations] are not going up exponentially,” Kemp said. “It’s worrisome but not alarming at this point. And we don’t want it to get alarming.”
Kemp also pointed to a decrease in the mortality rate as an encouraging trend in light of the influx of new cases.
On Wednesday, Savannah became the first major city in Georgia to begin requiring individuals to wear masks in public. Kemp stated Wednesday that he had not yet spoken with his legal team about the possibility of overturning that mandate through his emergency executive order.
The governor also expressed his disagreement with elected officials and leaders who’ve used mask mandates as political talking points.
“The whole mask issue right now, in my opinion, is being over-politicized,” Kemp said. “And that’s not what we should be doing.”