PLEASE NOTE: I have scheduled a Facebook Live Virtual Town Hall on Tuesday, March 24, at 5 pm. You can access it here. Feel free to submit questions ahead of time by emailing me at email@example.com, or by commenting on my Facebook page.
Friends – I have to be honest – I’ve struggled with how to talk about our current state of affairs in my weekly update. Like many of you, I’m feeling a wide range of emotions. I’m angry – angry at the slow response of some government agencies to the outbreak, angry at people who will not practice safe distancing and are endangering others. I’m sad – sad that so many people in our community are at-risk, sad that we simply don’t have the infrastructure to fight this virus better, sad to know that hospitals are already low on supplies. And I’m proud – proud of the school teachers who have adapted quickly to teach online, proud of APS for working so hard to get meals to students who rely on free lunch, proud of our medical professionals who continue to go to work to protect us leaving themselves (and their families) vulnerable to the virus.
When I have the energy, I try to focus on gratitude. I’m enormously grateful to the people who are working to contain the spread of the outbreak and are providing essential services, from sanitation work to grocery delivery. Being isolated as a family, I get to spend more time with my kiddo and my spouse. Family dinners, board games, and long neighborhood walks are part of our new normal, and I’m grateful for that opportunity. And I’m grateful to all of you for being engaged, for helping spread information to your networks, and, most of all, for staying home as much as possible to lighten the load on our healthcare workers.
It’s hard to send an update about the state’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak, since information is changing rapidly and constantly. I highly recommend following me on social media and utilizing the resources at the end of this email for timely information. Meanwhile, I want to share what we know today.
On Monday, the legislature convened for a special session to ratify Governor Kemp’s declaration of a public health emergency. We did that with a near-unanimous vote. This gives the governor the authority to make quick, effective decisions for the next 30 days. Because of this, you’re seeing lots of executive orders and uses of emergency funds meant to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Speaking of Monday, many of you may have heard that Senator Brandon Beach attended special session even though he was ill and awaiting results from a COVID-19 test, which eventually showed a positive result. It’s infuriating that some of our own leaders have not been following the recommended CDC protocols. Because of this exposure, I (along with all of the other members and staff at the Capitol) am self-quarantined. So far, my health appears fine.
LATEST COVID-19 UPDATES
The Georgia Department of Health is now reporting 507 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state and 14 confirmed deaths (as of Saturday, 3/21, at noon). Statistics are updated here twice a day at noon and 7:00 p.m.
Medical supply shortages are of top concern. The governor just authorized more than $19M in funds to purchase additional supplies and equipment. The Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) is at work now to get supplies delivered. Additional trailers are being set up for those who cannot self-quarantine at home but need isolation.
The slow testing process is frustrating, but I’m happy to report that both Grady Health System and Piedmont Hospital have drive-through testing facilities. Because we have so few tests, testing is still prioritized for select groups. If you feel you need a test, you must call your doctor first. Walk-ins will not be tested.
Mayor Keisha Lance-Bottoms issued an executive order to close all bars and nightclubs that do not serve food, gyms and fitness centers, movie theaters, live performance venues, bowling alleys, and arcades, and private social clubs, located within the territorial jurisdictional limits of the City of Atlanta. Restaurants and other establishments where food is served are limited to delivery service, drive-through, or take out. The order took effect Friday night, March 20, 2020. The city of Brookhaven has also suspended service for restaurant dine-in and counter services until March 30, 2020.
Georgia schools will continue to be closed at least through March 31. That date may be reassessed soon. In Atlanta, one of the greatest challenges is getting food delivered to families that rely on school-provided lunches and breakfasts for daily nutrition. The school community is looking for volunteers to help with food distribution – you can visit https://www.signupgenius.com/go/70a0f4ca8ae2fa4fa7-apsfood for more details about how to help.
The Georgia COVID-19 Hotline is 1-844-442-2681.
Georgia Department of Public HealthDaily Status Report (updated daily at 12 pm and 7 pm)
The Presidential Preference Primary has been delayed until May 19th, which is the election for state and local offices. If you have already voted, your vote for the primary has been counted! But you will need to vote again on May 19th for state and local offices. Remember, the safest way to vote is from the comfort of your house! It’s not too late to request an absentee ballot.
How can you help?
Blood banks are running low. If you are inclined to give blood, you can find locations at https://www.redcross.org/. My understanding is that they are taking extraordinary precautions to prevent any more human contact than needed during visits.
Open Hand, a nearby nonprofit that prepares and delivers meals for homebound individuals needs help. Morning and afternoon shifts are available. Currently, they have over 450 volunteer openings available that have been posted. Information is available at OpenHandAtlanta.org. If you have any questions, need help registering, please contact Volunteer Services directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 404-872-2707.
If you haven’t already, please browse my website, betsyforgeorgia.com.
As your Representative, your concerns are important to me. Please contact me at email@example.com or 404-656-0116 with questions, concerns, or solutions you may have regarding legislation or other happenings in District 54.
To stay updated, follow me on Twitter and Facebook, and follow the Georgia House of Representatives @GAHouseHub on Twitter. Additionally, in-depth information regarding current bills, Georgia’s annual and supplemental budgets, committee meetings, and livestreams from the General Assembly can be accessed via www.legis.ga.gov.
Thank you for allowing me to serve as your representative.
Representative Betsy Holland
GA House District 54