Black organizations call for meeting with Kemp on coronavirus response

Athens, Georgia  - Wearing a mask, Tony Brown, barber at Brown's Barber Shop, uses a disinfectant wipe to sanitize his chair after servicing a client at the shop in downtown Athens, Friday, April 24, 2020. The family owned small business reopened on Friday, after receiving clearance from Gov. Brian Kemp.  (ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Athens, Georgia - Wearing a mask, Tony Brown, barber at Brown's Barber Shop, uses a disinfectant wipe to sanitize his chair after servicing a client at the shop in downtown Athens, Friday, April 24, 2020. The family owned small business reopened on Friday, after receiving clearance from Gov. Brian Kemp. (ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

A group calling itself the Georgia Coalition 2 Save Lives is asking for an emergency meeting with Gov. Brian Kemp to discuss ways to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 among people of color, the elderly and the incarcerated, and to prevent a second wave of the disease that has killed more than 1,300 Georgians.

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that African Americans make up 83% of Georgians who have been hospitalized with COVID-19.

The group, representing dozens of black local, regional and national interests - ranging from legal to religious, medical and civic organizations - sent the letter to Kemp Wednesday requesting a meeting on or before May 12.

Kemp, whose office received the letter electronically Wednesday night, has not yet responded.

He began reopening Georgia’s economy April 24, allowing businesses like barbershops and beauty salons to take in customers. He followed that by allowing sit-down restaurants to reopen. On May 1, he lifted a statewide shelter-in-place order.

Gov. Brian Kemp wears a mask and urged all Georgians to do the same after touring the temporary medical pod that has been placed at the North Campus of Phoebe Putney Health System on Tuesday, May 5, 2020, in Albany. The pod at Phoebe North is scheduled to begin operations on Wednesday, May 6, housing 24 beds to treat non-critical COVID-19 patients. (CURTIS COMPTON / ccompton@ajc.com)
Gov. Brian Kemp wears a mask and urged all Georgians to do the same after touring the temporary medical pod that has been placed at the North Campus of Phoebe Putney Health System on Tuesday, May 5, 2020, in Albany. The pod at Phoebe North is scheduled to begin operations on Wednesday, May 6, housing 24 beds to treat non-critical COVID-19 patients. (CURTIS COMPTON / ccompton@ajc.com)

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“All of us are alarmed by the images we see of people interacting in public without adhering to safety measures,” the letter stated. “This poses a risk not only to their own health, but also the health of the general public, including essential workers, employees of newly reopened businesses and people in vulnerable and rural communities.”

State Rep. William Boddie (D - East Point) said since Kemp lifted his shelter-in-place order, Georgia has seen 3,715 new COVID-19 cases and 187 deaths.

“This is a pandemic that is not going anywhere anytime soon,” Boddie said. “It is time for us to sit down and talk.”

The coalition, led by attorney Mawuli Davis and Tricia “CK” Hoffler, the president-elect of the National Bar Association, said the CDC data showing how different groups have been affected “merits tailoring and targeting life-saving measures to communities of color, the elderly, and within Georgia’s extremely vulnerable prison populations, whose infection and death numbers are increasing rapidly.”

 Mawuli Davis,  in a 2017 file photo, is trying to set up a meeting with Gov. Brian Kemp to discuss the coronavirus’ impact on the state.  BOB ANDRES  /BANDRES@AJC.COM
Mawuli Davis,  in a 2017 file photo, is trying to set up a meeting with Gov. Brian Kemp to discuss the coronavirus’ impact on the state. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

Credit: Bob Andres

Credit: Bob Andres

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“This life-altering crisis calls for consultation, collaboration, and cooperation among us all, especially when vulnerable and rural communities are still facing high death rates from an invisible enemy,” the letter stated. “Georgians will benefit from a consensus among political and community leaders to guide a moral and ethical response plan that addresses both the health and economic implications of the COVID-19 crisis.”

In a conference call Thursday morning with other members of the group, Davis would not discuss what the next steps are if the governor declines the meeting invitation.

“We want to lead with hope that the governor will honor the many men and women and children this coalition represents,” Davis said. “We want to start with the olive branch of reaching out.”

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