Power Poll: Ga. leaders offer their thinking on COVID recovery

While they welcome news of the state’s reopening, a group of community leaders in Georgia say government still has to be vigilant with vaccinations against the coronavirus.

In the latest Power Poll, about 68% of community leaders said that, on the path to a return to normalcy, government’s role should be to keep urging people of all eligible groups and ages to be vaccinated.

Power Poll is part of a nationwide survey of community leaders on important issues in the news, including the reopening of many states, including Georgia, after more than a year of government-imposed restrictions and mandates.

The survey does not have the precision of a scientific poll and is meant only to provide insight into the thinking of leaders in metro Atlanta, Athens, Augusta, Columbus, Macon, and Savannah.

This latest poll was taken June 14 to June 17. Three questions were emailed to 731 business, community, and government leaders, 142 or 19% of whom responded.

Asked about the role government should play moving forward, another 16% of respondents said it needs to stay the course on easing COVID-19 restrictions, so the economy stays open and healthy.

About 9% said the private sector should be encouraged to do what is in the best interest of businesses and their customers, and about 6% said government should urge the use of common sense, including masks and social distancing in certain circumstances.

Jeff Graham, executive director of the advocacy group Georgia Equality, wrote in an email to Power Poll: “I worry that Georgia’s vaccination rate continues to lag well behind the levels needed to ensure we do not see flare-ups and the development of variant strains.”

A majority (56%) said they believe that the declining number of COVID-19 cases and deaths is a welcome sign that Georgia has turned the corner in the pandemic fight.

Another 29% said the move to a more-public lifestyle is understandable, given the collective trauma over the last year, but also might be a bit premature.

A small number (8%) said the reopening could be potentially risky, given the chance of possible COVID-19 flare-ups and the possible spread of new variants. But 7% said the reopening was overdue because the pandemic was not as bad as many feared or believed.

Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin said she’s concerned.

“Georgia’s rush to ‘normalcy’ has left many of our residents acting as if the pandemic is no longer a public health danger,” Franklin wrote in an email to Power Poll.

Community leaders were mostly positive about their community’s response to Georgia’s reopening. Forty-five percent said most people appear to be taking appropriate precautions as they resume their old routines. Only 16% said they’ve seen some risky behaviors and worry about that, given COVID’s seriousness.

COMMENTS:

Kelly Walsh, District 1 commissioner for the city of Decatur: “A city-wide mask mandate has been the linchpin of our pandemic response and has kept infection numbers incredibly low where I live. However, vaccinations should now bolster a return to normalcy, and we have to leverage that as our best tool to stay safe from COVID and get back to business and living life.”

Ben Burnett, Post 2 Alpharetta city councilmember: “I’m happy to see the business community act in the best interest of their residents and their business.”

Randy Lewis, managing director and co-founder of Fitzpatrick & Lewis Public Relations: “The second-greatest damage of COVID (behind loss of life) is the damage to the medical community who failed to communicate with the public professionally, effectively and with one voice. The communications performance of the medical community and government was embarrassing. It is as if the public is now moving forward without medical or government advice or direction.”

POLL RESULTS:

Georgians seem to be yearning for a return to normalcy as COVID-19 numbers improve and more people get vaccinated, etc. Do you believe the pace by many of returning to a more-public lifestyle is:

A welcome sign that we have turned the corner in the pandemic fight. 55.4%

An understandable move, given the collective trauma of the past year, but it might be a bit premature at this point. 29.5%

An overdue response, given the pandemic was not as bad as many had feared/believed. 7.2%

A potentially risky phenomenon, given a chance for COVID flare-ups and possible spread of new variants. 7.9%

What are you seeing in your community as Georgia reopens?

Many people are saying/acting as if we can’t do it quickly enough. 25.4%

Folks seem to be observing appropriate public health precautions as they move forward resuming normal lives. 45.1%

Many thought the situation was overblown anyway and are hoping to resume pre-COVID lifestyles quickly. 13.4%

I worry about the behavior I’m seeing that is risky, given COVID’s seriousness and continuing potential harm. 16.2%

What role should government play in furthering the path toward more normal lives for all of us?

Continue to urge common sense, if-reduced, use of masks and social distancing in some situations. 6.3%

Keep urging vaccinations of all eligible groups/ages. 68.3%

Government should stay the course on the strategy of easing restrictions/mandates to keep our economy open and healthy. 16.2%

The private sector should continue to be encouraged to act in the best interests of businesses and customers. 9.2%

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