Opinion: Ga. Senate should’ve led by example

The Georgia State Capitol is nearly empty Thursday, March 19, 2020, after lawmakers were urged Wednesday to self-isolate themselves after a state senator tested positive for COVID-19. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC
The Georgia State Capitol is nearly empty Thursday, March 19, 2020, after lawmakers were urged Wednesday to self-isolate themselves after a state senator tested positive for COVID-19. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC

During these uncertain times, people should be able to look to our government for sound leadership and information. After all, government has unparalleled access to public health experts who are scrambling to deal with this pandemic.

Part of that work is leading by example.

But the Georgia Senate has already stumbled significantly.

As a result of one senator showing up for an important vote while feeling ill, all 236 Georgia lawmakers and dozens of staffers are now being urged to isolate themselves for two weeks. This after Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, tested positive for COVID-19 after a special session March 16. Ironically, lawmakers were summoned to vote on granting emergency powers to Gov. Brian Kemp to help manage the coronavirus situation.

Even though doctors cleared him to work, he says, Beach showed poor judgment in coming to the Gold Dome with a mild fever and cough, common symptoms of the virus. The tight quarters of the Capitol offer ideal conditions for spreading infections. Beach has rightly expressed regret for his action.

He’s only one senator, though. Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who presides over the Georgia Senate, showed even-poorer judgment in keeping that chamber fully “open for the people’s business,” as he wrote in a statement March 10.

We believe Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, made the right and prudent call. On March 10, Ralston suspended the student page program, banned most guests from House chambers and urged the “public in the strongest possible terms” to watch proceeds from afar.

Yes, much is unknown about this new virus and how it spreads. That makes it even more important for people – and especially our elected leaders who hold great influence over this state’s affairs – to follow the counsel of health experts.

The Editorial Board.