Opinion | Gov. Kemp: AJC needs to be part of solution, not the problem

Georgia is making progress in the fight against COVID-19, but you wouldn’t know it from reading the state’s flagship newspaper.

Every day, readers see COVID-19 numbers – including a tally of cases and hospitalizations – with no context provided. The editorialized front page is crawling with sensational “news” that undermines confidence in state agencies and school leaders. And when their anger boils over, the Editorial Board prints a list of baseless grievances coupled with a clickbait headline.

During this crisis, the AJC has turned into a tabloid rag – appealing to supermarket shoppers waiting in line, six feet from their neighbor.

Since the paper of record refuses to live up to their mantra of “compelling, credible, and complete” coverage, I’ll do it for them:

As of August 20, our seven-day moving average of new cases reported is the lowest since July 10.

Our positivity rates are decreasing from 11.86% on July 27 to 9.2% on August 20.

Hospitalizations are down 10% over the last seven days and now sit at 2,573 - down 522 since August 1.

And our transmission rate remains below 1, a key metric in the spread of the virus.

Many states are sinking economically, but we are weathering the storm. Georgia avoided draconian budget cuts, maintained our AAA Bond Rating, and added thousands of new jobs in July. Moody’s said it best: “Georgia’s strong governance and fiscal management … will enable the state to sufficiently manage the economic downturn.”

While encouraged by the trends, we remain focused on the challenges to come.

Recently, we extended the shelter in place order for the medically fragile. To prevent “every unmasked gathering of people seeking to thumb their nose at an invisible, yet very real, virus,” the order continues the large gatherings ban.

Every day, we are urging Georgians to wear a mask, practice social distancing, and wash their hands. We are begging for locals to enforce the current guidance.

In short, we are doing our job to save lives and jobs. Now, it is time for the AJC to do theirs.

The AJC must acknowledge DPH Commissioner Toomey’s expertise and that public health officials are not a monolith. Every article written requires both sides of the story. Let the readers – not the editors – decide who has better data and a more convincing argument.

Secondly, if the AJC really believes that mask mandates will end this pandemic, use the front page - above the fold - to urge Georgians to wear one. Better yet, put your money where your ink is and send a mask to every subscriber.

“Keep Calm and Stay Home” is catchy but terrible advice. Instead of urging folks to hide away, which will destroy jobs and ultimately lead to increased suicide rates, lower educational outcomes, and violence, use the paper to urge Georgians to safely shop local.

Finally, the AJC should remember that our rights are worth protecting, even during a crisis. The paper chided my decision to protect private property owners from government overreach and urge – not mandate – Georgians to wear masks. This is still America, right?

The only way to beat COVID-19 is by having all Georgians make smart decisions. You can mandate masks and issue stay-at-home orders, but every person will ultimately decide what to follow and what to ignore. People – not government – stop the spread. Georgians doing the right thing will make a difference, not smug editorials.

This is a critical moment in our fight against COVID-19 and it’s time for the AJC to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Gov. Brian P. Kemp