Governor, health officials hold first meeting of newly created coronavirus task force

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced that he has created a coronavirus task force and the group held its first meeting Friday.

ATLANTA — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced that he has created a coronavirus task force and the group held its first meeting Friday.

As of now, there are no reports of any coronavirus cases in Georgia, but the state wants to be ready if there are.

Channel 2 political reporter Richard Elliot was in the room Friday afternoon as Kemp convened the first meeting of the newly created task force.

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It featured leaders with the Department of Public Health, private hospitals -- including Grady Memorial and Emory University -- and the state, including the attorney general and commander of Georgia’s National Guard.

Kemp said he wanted to have the state prepared should the coronavirus show up in Georgia.

“We’ve got a great team assembled. I think y’all bring a lot of different dynamics to the table in things that we are dealing with right now,” Kemp said.

About an hour earlier, Kemp joined the state’s chief medical officer, Dr. Kathleen Toomey, to update the media on the state’s readiness.

“The bottom line is, we just want be prepared, and we are preparing for the worst but hoping for the best,” Kemp said.

Earlier this week, Georgia and other states learned that their testing kits were tainted at the point of manufacture and were useless.

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All test are now being sent directly to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing.

Toomey said that has delayed testing in the state by four to five days, but she says they haven’t had many tests to send.

“We’ve tested or sent to the CDC under 10 tests, and none have come back to date positive,” Toomey said.

Toomey said her No. 1 question she gets is, how do you stop people from getting coronavirus?

She said it’s the same way you stop the spread of colds and flues: Wash your hands often, don’t touch your nose or mouth, and if you’re feeling sick, stay home.

Dr. Jonathan S. Lewin, Executive Vice President Health Affairs of Emory University, praised the move by the governor.

“Today Governor Kemp has taken critical steps to protect Georgians as the world works to address the challenges brought on by the current coronavirus outbreak. His swift action in assembling this taskforce builds on years of work across the state to mitigate a public health crisis. The appointment of Dr. Colleen Kraft from Emory also helps to ensure that lessons applied from our treatment of Ebola patients five years ago will be leveraged to protect health care workers across the state who stand ready.”

People named to Governor’s Coronavirus Task Force:

  • Felipe den Brok, Director – City of Atlanta’s Office of Emergency Preparedness
  • Homer Bryson, Director – Georgia Emergency Management & Homeland Security Agency
  • Maj. Gen. Tom Carden, Adjutant General – Georgia National Guard
  • Chris Carr, Attorney General – Office of the Attorney General
  • Sharon Cooper, RN, MSN, Chair – State House Health & Human Services Committee
  • Greg Dozier, Commissioner – Technical College System of Georgia
  • Cherie Drenzek, State Epidemiologist – Georgia Department of Public Health
  • Tim Fleming, Chief of Staff – Office of the Governor
  • John Haupert, FACHE, Chief Executive Officer – Grady Health System
  • John King, Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner – Georgia Department of Insurance
  • Colleen Kraft, MD, Director – Emory University Clinical Virology Research Laboratory
  • Ryan Loke, Healthcare Advisor – Office of the Governor
  • John Selden, General Manager – Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport
  • Lorri Smith , Chief Operating Officer – Office of the Governor
  • Kathleen Toomey, MD, MPH, Commissioner – Georgia Department of Public Health
  • Ben Watson, MD, Chair – State Senate Health & Human Services Committee
  • Richard Woods, State School Superintendent – Georgia Department of Education
  • Steve Wrigley, Chancellor – University System of Georgia