ATLANTA – House Minority Leader James Beverly (D-Macon), State Representatives Roger Bruce (D-Atlanta), Rhonda Burnough (D-Riverdale), Viola Davis (D-Stone Mountain), Shelly Hutchinson (D-Snellville), Donna McLeod (D-Lawrenceville), Rebecca Mitchell (D-Snellville), Mary Robichaux (D-Roswell) and Sandra Scott (D-Rex) urge the governor and the state school superintendent to take specific actions to help reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in Georgia.
“The most powerful step the governor can take to prevent illness and deaths is to start being active rather than passive,” said these members of the Georgia House Democratic Caucus in a joint statement. “We urge the governor and the state school superintendent to mandate masks and fund statewide incentive programs. Stop pushing back against vaccine verification and start invalidating anti-vaccine rhetoric. Take the active steps and come off the sidelines. Public health requires investment from the whole system, not just the grassroots advocacy. In one word, lead.”
“This virus has been turned into a political issue by elected Republicans, and now our children and other individuals are dying,” said Rep. McLeod. “The fact that we all take an oath to serve and protect means this is a sacred responsibility. This failure by elected Republicans is bordering on criminal negligence.”
These legislators urge state leaders to utilize science-based mitigation strategies that may help reduce transmission in schools, which includes mask requirements, social distancing and ventilation upgrades where possible. These legislators are concerned that positive COVID-19 tests in Georgia children will continue to increase and that more Georgia children will lose their lives to the virus. These legislators believe that the state’s efforts to address the “delta wave” of COVID-19 cannot be solved by offering a single day off for state workers and an increase in test availability.
“We can no longer sit in silence when we see our children getting COVID-19 in record numbers daily,” said Rep. Scott.
These legislators are calling on the governor and state school superintendent to help prevent transmission among children by requiring masks in and out of schools. These legislators also request an increase in funding and logistics assistance to help schools implement mitigation strategies. These legislators also seek to amend the Georgia Department of Public Health’s Administrative Order 15 to eliminate quarantine loopholes for in-school exposure. These legislators believe this guidance does not apply to exposure where either person is unmasked; therefore, they believe that the order should not be applied in schools without universal masking.
“The health of our children determines our future,” said Rep. Burnough. “The governor and state school superintendent should stand up for our most valuable resource and mandate masks and vaccinations. This is not about them but the future of Georgia.”
Additionally, these legislators request that the state address the needs of families with children in isolation and quarantine. These legislators urge schools to offer a digital learning option for children who may be home due to quarantine measures. In order to offer in-person learning as much as possible, these legislators urge the state to use scientific data to address the spread of the delta variant and adapt guidelines to address transmission in schools.
“As critical care nurses and healthcare professionals, we take an oath to do no harm,” said Rep. Davis. “We cannot afford to play politics with the health and welfare of our patients, especially when it comes to children.”
“Research shows that more mitigation in schools is associated with fewer infections in the households of school-aged children,” said Rep. Mitchell. “Studies also show that for every two adults who die from COVID-19, a child loses a caregiver. We know that healthy and thriving children depend on having loving caregivers. We protect Georgia families by protecting children. Even without acknowledging the severity of COVID-19 in children, keeping our schools safer helps our entire community. We cannot afford to continue to risk the lives of millions of unvaccinated Georgians, including our children. We need action from the state to keep Georgians safer.”
These House members agree with health care organizations and professionals that have released the following information and statements:
- The Georgia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which represents 1,800 pediatricians across the state, sent an open letter to all Georgia school superintendents on July 20, 2021, that urged school districts to follow the AAP guidance for schools. The letter stated, “All students older than 2 years and all school staff should wear face masks at school (unless medical or developmental conditions prohibit use).” In addition, “Include multiple layers of other protection such as social distancing and good ventilation. The recommendations are that schools maintain at least 3 feet of physical distance between students in classrooms wherever possible, combined with indoor mask
wearing, to reduce transmission risk.” Read more here.
- The 240 physicians and advanced practice providers, parents, and members of the Cobb County community stated in a letter to the local superintendent and school board, “Slowing the spread in schools is essential to slowing community spread. Currently our hospitals, ICUs, and clinics are struggling to provide care for the whole community, and with the continued rise in cases our hospitals could become overburdened. When that happens, it puts everyone who may need medical care (regardless of condition) at risk.”
- During a recent press conference, officials from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Emory Healthcare, Grady Health System, Northeast Georgia Health System, Piedmont Healthcare and Wellstar Health System provided a current update from their hospitals and health systems and addressed the “urgent need for vaccinations in our local communities and throughout the state.” The officials gave a call to action to help stop the Delta variant surge of COVID-19 in Georgia, including getting vaccinated, mask wearing and hand washing.
Representative James Beverly represents the citizens of District 143, which includes portions of Bibb County. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 2011 and currently serves as House Minority Leader. He also serves on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation and on the Ethics, Health & Human Services, Retirement, Rules, Small Business Development and Special Rules committees.
Representative Roger Bruce represents the citizens of District 61, which includes portions of Cobb, Douglas and Fulton counties. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 2002 and currently serves on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Public Safety, Game, Fish & Parks, Human Relations & Aging, Judiciary and Small Business Development committees.
Representative Rhonda Burnough represents the citizens of District 77, which includes portions of Clayton County. She was elected to the House of Representatives in 2016 and currently serves on the Special Committee on Election Integrity and the Economic Development & Tourism, Governmental Affairs, Higher Education and Small Business Development committees.
Representative Viola Davis represents the citizens of District 87, which includes portions of DeKalb County. She was elected to the House of Representatives in 2018 and currently serves on the Natural Resources & Environment, Insurance, Interstate Cooperation and Science and Technology committees.
Representative Shelly Hutchinson represents the citizens of District 107, which includes portions of Gwinnett County. She was elected to the House of Representatives in 2018 and currently serves on the Budget and Fiscal Affairs Oversight, Health & Human Services, Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications and Juvenile Justice committees.
Representative Donna McLeod represents the citizens of District 105, which includes portions of Gwinnett County. She was elected to the House of Representatives in 2018 and currently serves on the Code Revision, Human Relations & Aging, Interstate Cooperation and Science and Technology committees.
Representative Rebecca Mitchell represents the citizens of District 106, which includes portions of the cities of Snellville, Grayson, Loganville, Lawrenceville, and unincorporated Lilburn in Gwinnett County. She was first elected to the House Representatives in 2020 and currently serves on the Agriculture and Consumer Affairs, Human Relations and Aging and State Planning and Community Affairs committees.
Representative Mary Robichaux represents the citizens of District 48, which includes portions of Fulton County. She was elected to the House of Representatives in 2018 and currently serves as the House Minority Caucus Treasurer. She also serves on the Economic Development & Tourism, Human Relations & Aging, Small Business Development and Special Rules committees.
Representative Sandra Scott represents the citizens of District 76, which includes portions of Clayton and Henry counties. She was first elected to the House Representatives in 2010 and currently serves on the Defense & Veterans Affairs, Human Relations & Aging, Legislative & Congressional Reapportionment, Science and Technology and Special Rules committees.