ATLANTA — In a preemptive effort to stop a wave of new coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the wake of Labor Day weekend, state officials are urging people to seek out a coronavirus test.
Gov. Brian Kemp and Dr. Kathleen Toomey, commissioner of the Department of Public Health, have asked Georgians — especially those who may have attended large gatherings for the holiday — to schedule a COVID-19 test at one of the health department’s testing locations.
The plea comes after Kemp traveled around the state ahead of the holiday, encouraging people to wear masks and stick to social distancing requirements.
"To prevent increased community spread following the holiday weekend, we are asking all Georgians who participated in gatherings, were not able to socially distance or who may have been exposed to the virus to schedule a COVID-19 test,” he said. "To stop the spread of COVID-19, Georgians must be part of the solution and not the problem, as we have said from the beginning.”
A report released earlier this month showed that COVID-19 cases in Georgia spiked following Memorial Day weekend.
Amber Schmidtke, a former Mercer University professor and expert in microbiology and immunology, compiled the report that links a surge in cases and hospitalizations to the holiday.
A dramatic increase in cases throughout Georgia began around the second week of June, the report says, which continued the rest of the month and into July. Hot spots that occurred after Memorial Day weekend were linked to areas of the state that have large amounts of tourism.
"That surge in cases was accompanied by a surge in hospitalizations that strained our health care infrastructure across the state,” Schmidtke wrote. "It is therefore important that we take steps over Labor Day to limit disease transmission to protect the fragile gains that have been made.”
Toomey said testing is “a key component” in the state’s efforts to mitigate transition.
"Gov. Kemp and I are asking all Georgians who may be at risk of exposure to the virus after Labor Day to schedule a test at one of our testing sites throughout the state. I would also recommend that all Georgians go ahead and schedule a flu shot,” she said. "These two steps can mitigate community spread and keep Georgians healthy as we continue on a positive trajectory with the virus.”
In August, Kemp signed an executive order allowing cities and counties to implement mask mandates which may help areas with facial covering requirements limit spread over Labor Day.
Riley Bunch covers the Georgia Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites.