Gov. Kemp declares public health emergency; calls for special session

ATLANTA — UPDATE: Gov. Brian Kemp declared a public health emergency Saturday at 10 a.m. Here is the latest information.

Channel 2 Action News has learned that Gov. Brian Kemp will declare a statewide public health emergency, to take effect Saturday.

Also, Kemp will call for a special legislative session so lawmakers can approve appropriate funding in light of the coronavirus pandemic, bringing lawmakers back Monday to ratify the declaration.

The declaration will free up resources that the state says it will need in the days and weeks going forward.

The head of the Department of Public Health, Dr. Kathleen Toomey, told Channel 2 political reporter Richard Elliot that the state has more test kits and its labs are getting ready.

“I think the more we can dispel the misinformation, the more we can approach this in a much less panicked way,” Toomey said.


Toomey sat down exclusively with Elliot on Friday to give latest on the state’s response to COVID-19. She heads the state’s coronavirus task force.

“Our lab has more capacity now than it did just a few days ago, so that’s really good news. We can now process 100 specimens a day,” Toomey said.

Toomey said 80% of the people who will get COVID-19 will experience only mild symptoms similar to a cold, flu or allergies.

“The vast majority of people with this infection have very mild symptoms and may not even recognize they’re infected. That’s the good news. The bad news is that means you may be spreading the virus to others and not be aware,” Toomey said.

Kemp said he’s calling the General Assembly back into session Monday morning to ratify this emergency declaration.

Friday, the halls of the capitol were empty as the session was suspended and legislators were told to go home.

House Speaker David Ralston told Elliot all this is unprecedented, so they’re taking it minute by minute.

“There’s no book written on how to deal with these kinds of situations, so we’re just going to deal with it as it comes,” Ralston said.

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