EXCLUSIVE: Gov. Kemp speaks candidly about coronavirus numbers, reopening Georgia

Gov. Brian Kemp said he is optimistic about the direction of our state as it continues to reopen amid the coronavirus shutdown.

ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp said he is optimistic about the direction of our state as it continues to reopen amid the coronavirus shutdown.

Channel 2 anchor Justin Farmer spoke exclusively with Kemp Tuesday, who was candid and forthcoming about issues, such as inaccurate testing numbers and cuts to our state’s budget.

WATCH this EXCLUSIVE interview on Channel 2 Action News This Morning

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Kemp also told Farmer when we would learn about rolling back more on coronavirus restrictions.

“We’ve got two wars we’re fighting now. We’re still fighting the COVID-19 virus, but we’re also fighting a war to get our people back to work and reopen our economy,” Kemp said.

The governor took a lot of heat when he was one of the first governors to ease stay-at-home restrictions to get some Georgians back to work nearly a month ago.

He said testing and hospital numbers showed his so-called “measured approach” are paying off.

As of Tuesday, there have been more than 378,000 COVID-19 tests performed in Georgia, and the percentage of people testing positive has dropped to 10.21%.

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Now he says fewer than 1,000 COVID-19 patients are in Georgia hospitals for the first time since early April.

“A month ago, we had everybody following all these models, but now the best data we’re getting is real-life experiences our hospital CEOs are reporting each day,” Kemp said.

“What is the most important data point that you look at to help guide your decisions?” Farmer asked Kemp.

“The main thing for me, really, is the rate of new cases, what our fatalities are looking like and then the percent of positives are in addition to how much we’re testing. That is key for us to know where the trends are,” Kemp said.

Those numbers have been another source of controversy for the governor’s administration.

This week, our investigative partners at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution learned the Department of Community Health mistakenly included the results of 231 antibody tests, instead of the diagnostic tests that tell us if a person is currently sick, in the state’s tally.

“Tell us, what happened there?” Farmer asked Kemp.

“There have been a couple of things that have happened. As you can imagine, we’re dealing with a lot of data. A lot of people that are sending us the data, and we’re trying to compile that and get it out as quickly as we can and as accurately as we can,” Kemp said. “So that shouldn’t have been in the count. That was something that was fixed very quickly. I would just urge the public to be very patient. We’ve been very transparent. Every number that we’ve got is on our website.”

Our state’s budget is another concern for the governor.

State agencies were told to start plans on slashing their budgets by 14% to cut billions from the state’s budget.

That could mean layoffs and furloughs for Georgia’s 200,000 state employees, including teachers and public health officials battling the pandemic.

“When we look at the state’s budget, that’s a problem that’s going to linger,” Farmer said.

“My priorities have not changed. I continue to fight for education for our state. I think that’s going to be very important,” Kemp said. “Even in tough times, we can find a way to do that, and that’s certainly something that I will be urging the legislature to do.”

There was also some optimism for shuttered businesses Tuesday. The governor said he would announce new guidance soon.

“They’re wanting to open back those businesses, and people want to go participate in those activities, and I get that. We just got to make sure we do it in a way that’s safe for Georgians,” Kemp said.

“In terms of official change of guidelines coming from your office, when can we expect that?” Farmer said.

“It should be coming pretty soon. What day the change would go into effect, I’d like to reserve judgment. But we’ll tell you we’re working very hard to try and have some guidance out over the next several days,” Kemp said.

The researchers say when you look at the amount of infections per 1 million people shows the Atlanta metro is not the hardest hit.