Governor defends decision to keep state open as Atlanta mayor orders people to stay at home

Channel 2's Richard Elliot talked to Kemp about his strategy to protect Georgians from coronavirus.

ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp is defending his decision not to issue a shelter-in-place order for all Georgians and he says he could make a decision about the rest of the school year before the end of the week.

The governor told Channel 2 political reporter Richard Elliot that he’s also considering quarantining some airline passengers coming from New York.

Kemp spoke to Elliot via Zoom and said while he’s aware critics want him to issue a statewide shelter in place order, he’s not ready to do that just yet.

Content Continues Below

“That’s the thing everybody is thinking about today, and not necessarily thinking about the, you know, two weeks or two months or two years, where we’re going to be, and I think that’s part of my job,” Kemp said.

The governor said he knows more people are going to contract COVID-19, though he said his public health advisers insist a majority of the cases will be mild.

RELATED STORIES:

Kemp told Elliot he’s worried about what Georgia’s economy will look like on the other side of the crisis and how many businesses and jobs will survive.

"We call that balance. That’s really got me where I was yesterday, but it also leaves that shelter-in-place tool in the tool box if we need to pull it out if things get worse,” Kemp said.

On social media, critics insist Kemp is putting the economy ahead of lives.

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Daniel Ketterer said he applauds Kemp’s decision to put Georgia’s medically fragile under a shelter-in-place order but insists it must apply to all Georgians or the disease will spread.

“This is why having shelter-at-home protocols like Mayor (Keisha Lance) Bottoms has instituted for Atlanta is a good idea. It helps reduce asymptomatic transmission,” Ketterer said.

Kemp also said he’s spoken with school superintendents around the state about whether to end the school year now or have students come back next week

“We’re in communications with them to try and pick the best path forward that will be good, or the least disruptive for everybody,” Kemp said.

Kemp also said they’re looking at the possibility of quarantining anyone flying here from New York for 14-days because of the coronavirus outbreak up there.

The mayor is asking all residents to stay home. She says this is how we are going to beat the coronavirus.

Some small business owners told Channel 2’s Dave Huddleston it’s going to be tough but they understand it’s what needs to be done to keep the majority of people safe.

Huddleston stopped at Ansley Eye Care as it closed for the day Tuesday.

The sign on the door says it will be closed for the general public in accordance with the mayor’s executive order that all nonessential businesses shut down.

“It’s a hardship for sure, but we’re just doing what we can,” a store employee said.

Huddleston said other businesses in the shopping center were already closed.

The mayor wants residents to shelter in place for 14 days, beginning Tuesday at midnight. Attorney Nathan Fitzpatrick told Huddleston that he is already at home with his family.

“I think the mayor has done an outstanding job. She’s trying to get ahead of the curve. I think she’s taken it very serious, as it is serious, and she’s putting the priority to help Atlanta citizens above everything else,” Fitzpatrick said.

The ordinance does have plenty of exemptions, like emergency personnel, gas stations and restaurants that are takeout or delivery.

Xavier Carter is also home with his wife and small kids. He told Huddleston that it really hit home how serious this is when a good friend contracted the virus.

“The uncontrollable coughing combined with the inability to kind of catch his breath, having a tough time breathing, that was very scary as you can imagine. It would be very scary for anyone,” Carter said. “When you know someone and they’re your age and they’re telling you how horrible it was, you could see it, you could see it in his eyes.”

Coronavirus outbreak: What you need to know