ATLANTA — A global epidemiologist is giving a stark warning as the coronavirus continues to spread across the country and here in Georgia.
On Monday afternoon, Emory University professor Dr. Carlos del Rio made a presentation to city leaders from across the state.
“I want to say that we are in unprecedented times and need unprecedented leadership, and I’m hoping that all of you will be able to provide it in your communities,” he told the leaders.
In the presentation, del Rio warned of the grim death and hospital overload possibilities in Georgia under several scenarios: the best outcomes over a three-month period, should the state shelter in place, and the worst outcome if no action is taken.
It prompted the Georgia Municipality Association to urge all 538 Georgia cities to issue their own emergency declarations limiting social contact among their residents.
Those orders were to place more serious limits on businesses and residential movement than Gov. Brian Kemp ended up putting in place Monday.
Del Rio warned that a two-week shelter-in-place order would give Georgia the time it needs to scale up testing, identify infections, isolate those people and try to protect the state health care system.
“Georgia has until tomorrow, basically, until March 24, to do the right thing. If Georgia doesn’t do this by March 24, we might as well just prepare for catastrophe. That is the acuteness of this. That’s why I’m talking to you today. We don’t have a lot of time,” del Rio said during the presentation.
“I mean, we all know it’s happening, but it was very sobering to see what could happen,” Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett told Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr.
Garrett said a combination of del Rio’s presentation and the terms of neighboring Atlanta’s order led her to issue a stay-at-home order less than a day after the teleconference.
“I have not received a single email or phone call from a resident that has said, ‘Why did you do that?’ Everything I’ve received has been, ‘Thank you for doing this,’” Garrett said.
“It’s chilling. It’s surreal,” Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst told Carr. “We actually passed a resolution on Tuesday to actually call for the governor to either make a statewide shelter-in-place (order) or at least a metro Atlanta areawide shelter-in-place (order).”
Kemp addressed critics who want him to issue a shelter-in-place order statewide. He said it’s still an option down the road.
“We still have over 50 counties that don’t have a case, trying to balance all those things and going on that data we have and supporting local elected officials,” Kemp said.
Both mayors told Carr they were also influenced by professionals from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who live in their communities.