Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey said those who have been taking part in the George Floyd protests should get tested for COVID-19. She made her remarks during Gov. Brian Kemp’s afternoon press briefing at the State Operations Center in Downtown.
“In demonstrations and mass gatherings, when you have this many people in close proximity, you have the opportunity for viral transmission,” Toomey said, noting that protesters coming from out of state could also be bringing the virus to Georgia. “We ask everyone to be very vigilant.”
Toomey said her department had reached out to Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to organize COVID-19 testing for first responders who might have been exposed during the protests. Testing will also be conducted on National Guard troops and other law enforcement members who might have been exposed.
GBI Director Vic Reynolds confirmed that he had seen intelligence that outside agitators from “various groups” and “certain organizations” were involved in the violence, looting, and arson during the protests in Atlanta over the weekend. However, he was not prepared to identify the organizations.
“We are convinced there are individuals here from around the country bent on violence and destruction,” Reynold said. “Officers and agents have seen it.”
Gov. Kemp said the peaceful protests were being “corrupted by others with a different agenda.”
“Violence and destruction is unacceptable. We will respond to threats to undermine our safety and keep the peace,” Kemp said. “If these unruly people think we will lay down or quit, then they’re in the wrong state.”
Kemp said the confluence of the pandemic and the protests have made for a “highly emotional time” in Georgia.
“We are gripped by global pandemic and economic hardship,” the governor said. “Unemployment and uncertainty is sky high right now.”
Kemp said he supports the the protests to honor George Floyd. “We witnessed injustice with our own eyes. The fear, anger and righteous impatience is justified. I understand people are hurting and want answers.”