ATLANTA (WSAV) – Gov. Brian Kemp has announced additional steps to help Georgia hospitals and encourage — but not require — state employees to get vaccinated in response to an alarming surge in coronavirus cases.
“I don’t think vaccine mandates or mask mandates or mandates in general work,” Kemp told reporters Monday.
But he is giving state employees a day off in hopes they’ll use it to get the shot.
“I’m asking all state employees who have not yet gotten their shot to consider scheduling it on or before Friday, Sept. 3,” he said.
Those who have already been vaccinated can have the long Labor Day weekend “as a thank you,” Kemp added.
The governor reiterated he will not be issuing any shutdowns related to the virus.
“Georgians know the risk of this virus and they know we have the tools at our disposal to prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death,” Kemp said. The most important thing for Georgians to do at this point, if you’re not vaccinated, is to please talk to your doctor or medical professional or someone that you trust that perhaps has been vaccinated and make a good health care decision for you and your family.”
Dr. Kathleen Toomey, the Georgia Department of Public Health commissioner, says the delta variant accounts for roughly 90% of new cases in the state.
Meanwhile, the state’s vaccination rate still lingers at 41%.
“Not surprisingly, it’s making a beeline for unvaccinated individuals,” she said. “The good news is that vaccines do work. They are protecting people from consequences of what is potentially a more dangerous virus. It’s really good to see that that is happening.”
The recent surge of infections is overwhelming Georgia’s hospitals. Many say they don’t have enough beds and staff.
Kemp said the state is coordinating millions of dollars to provide up to 2,800 hospital staff members to metro and rural areas through the first week of December.