Gov. Brian Kemp will lay out additional steps to help Georgia hospitals and encourage — but not require — state employees to get vaccinated amid an alarming surge in coronavirus cases.
Kemp has scheduled a news conference Monday with Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey to discuss these steps and answer questions, the governor’s office said over the weekend.
It comes as Georgia’s case count continues to rise, fueled by the much more contagious delta variant among people who haven’t been vaccinated.
Hospitals are again inundated with coronavirus patients, and many have warned they don’t have enough beds and staff.
The number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals climbed to nearly 4,300 over the weekend, and more than 88% of the state’s ICU beds were in use. The vast majority of COVID patients are unvaccinated. Only 41% of Georgia’s population is fully vaccinated, well below the national average.
The state’s seven-day rolling average of new cases climbed above 6,000 on Friday, the worst since Feb. 1.
Schools, meanwhile, are struggling to keep classrooms open as exposures to COVID-19 infections force many students and teachers to quarantine. School districts in Burke, Crisp, Long and Ware counties announced Friday that they would send students home, bringing the number of districts that have done so to nine.
Kemp, a Republican up for reelection next year, has rejected a statewide mask mandate and said the state will not restrict businesses or public activities again. He has encouraged people to get vaccinated, but has opposed mandates, saying that some people may never be willing to take the shots.
That’s a sharp break with states led by Democrats. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced earlier this month that most of Virginia’s state workers will have to be vaccinated or agree to regular COVID-19 testing. North Carolina, New York and California have issued similar requirements, and the Biden administration has ordered strict vaccine rules for federal workers.