With coronavirus cases surging in Georgia, many are bracing for a potentially debilitating second wave, but thus far, we can at least take solace knowing that COVID-19-related deaths haven’t come close to keeping pace with the recent increase. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t cause for concern – especially for those who are at high risk. But thankfully, Georgia officials have taken smart steps toward mitigating dangers, and some of these endeavors are already bearing fruit.
Toward the beginning of the outbreak, Gov. Kemp instituted a shelter-in-place order for many Georgians, excluding necessary travel and workers. It lasted weeks until the governor lifted it in late April for all but those who were at high risk for COVID-19. However, Gov. Kemp came under fire for letting the order expire because there were still many ill with the virus, but that criticism missed the point of the order. It wasn’t about eradicating the virus. That would be a fool’s errand with the current technology. Rather, the goal was to buy time to build capacity and reduce the stress on medical facilities. From this perspective, the order––as well as many other states’ orders––was a success.
Hospital bed usage is nowhere near capacity; COVID-19 testing is now easily accessible; personal protective equipment production for medical professionals has ramped up around the country; medicines and equipment that aid patients’ recovery from COVID-19 are produced at higher rates; the shelter-in-place order provided more time to work on a vaccine––although, an approved vaccine is far from ready for public use; and convenience stores are now loaded to the brim with the once rare hand sanitizer, masks, and ever-precious toilet paper.
In addition to the stay-at-home order, Gov. Kemp also used the power of the pen to permit more medical professionals to enter Georgia’s workforce and join the fight against the pandemic. This allowed nurses who had just graduated to work temporarily even if they hadn’t passed their licensing exam just yet. Gov. Kemp opened a path for out-of-state pharmacists and telemedicine doctors to more easily work in Georgia, and he allowed doctors whose licenses had expired in the past five years to practice medicine.
These executive actions have gone a long way, but even with all of these efforts, it is still wise to avoid large gatherings––especially indoors––and to continue wearing masks when social distancing is impossible. For others, like those with underlying issues, they may feel that the best path forward for the time being is to largely avoid the public. Thankfully, we live in an era in which we have the technology to do this.
The internet and various applications allow many Americans to work from home, telemedicine permits us to attend doctors’ appointments without leaving the house, and food delivery apps allow restaurants and even grocery stores to send their food directly to hungry customers.
These technologies have brought Georgians a great amount of convenience. However, there is at least one glaring omission––Georgians cannot have alcohol delivered directly to their homes, despite consumer demand for such services existing. But this may change in the near future.
The Georgia General Assembly approved a measure––HB 879––to permit companies to deliver wine and beer directly to of-age consumers’ doorsteps––thus helping them avoid superfluous public interactions, which can be risky in the age of COVID-19. The measure is on the governor’s desk and only needs his signature to become law. Time will tell if Gov. Kemp will enact the proposal, but I’d imagine that thirsty Georgians who are still trying to shelter in place sure would appreciate it.
Gov. Kemp and the members of the Georgia General Assembly didn’t choose to be in office during a once-in-a-century pandemic, but here they are. In many ways, they’ve performed admirably in the face of an unprecedented threat. While this isn’t the limit of their work to address the COVID-19 outbreak, it would appear that Georgia is better because of their endeavors.
Marc Hyden is the director of state government affairs at the R Street Institute, and he is a long-time Georgia resident. You can follow him on Twitter at @marc_hyden.