Kemp expects COVID-19 vaccinations to start within weeks, eases distribution rules

Coronavirus

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Georgia’s governor says he expects health care workers in Georgia will begin being vaccinated against COVID-19 in the second or third week of December.

Gov. Brian Kemp’s remarks came Monday as nursing home executives appealed to the Republican to keep supporting them financially.

“Like most Georgians and Americans, I am certainly encouraged to hear the news about several vaccines,” Kemp told the group.

Later in the day, the governor signed off on an executive order that will allow nurses and pharmacists to administer the vaccine, including in a drive-thru setting. The order, which will remain in effect for the first two weeks of December, also extends current COVID-19 restrictions.

Kemp also extended Georgia’s Public Health State of Emergency into the new year, until Jan. 8.

Health officials are watching for an expected increase in coronavirus infections following Thanksgiving. Georgia is averaging more than 3,000 confirmed and probable cases a day. Nearly 2,200 people were in Georgia hospitals on Monday with confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Monday, the highest number since Sept. 1.

The impact of the pandemic has been heavy at nursing homes, which have recorded nearly one-third of all of Georgia’s deaths.

The most recent report on COVID-19 cases and deaths from the Georgia Department of Community Health indicates that 2,877 elderly residents have died of the virus (those numbers from April through November 25.) The report covers the 661 licensed nursing homes, assisted living facilities and personal care homes (of 25 beds or more) in the state.

Several administrators who attended Monday’s roundtable said that things have improved at facilities since the early days and months of the pandemic, citing CARES Act money and other state funding distributed statewide to facilities for safety equipment and staff testing and training. They did say that currently, they continue to have concerns about staffing levels and staff fatigue.

Kemp said that resources are available through the end of the year, and he expects distribution of a vaccine to priority persons, including those living in vulnerable populations or nursing homes.

“That may certainly change but that is what we are hoping for right now,” he said.

Contributions to this report from the Associated Press

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