The Jolt: Democrats say pause elective surgeries as COVID strains hospitals

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Rep. David Scott, D-Ga. has been among the critics of Equifax. He has also questioned the apparent decision of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to put its investigation of the company on ice. (Photo by RICK MCKAY/Cox Washington Bureau)

Rep. David Scott, D-Ga. has been among the critics of Equifax. He has also questioned the apparent decision of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to put its investigation of the company on ice. (Photo by RICK MCKAY/Cox Washington Bureau)

Gov. Brian Kemp has repeatedly ruled out mask mandates and vaccine requirements. But public health experts and leading Democrats are pushing him to take additional steps to contain the vicious fourth wave of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic in the state.

On Wednesday, U.S. Reps. Hank Johnson and David Scott of Atlanta called for Kemp to place a statewide pause on elective in-patient surgeries to free up medical staff to deal with coronavirus patients straining hospitals.

(Several local hospitals, including in Glynn County on the coast, have already suspended elective procedures.)

The congressmen also urged the governor to extend licensing requirement waivers for hospitals and healthcare workers who provide critical services as a Sept. 19 deadline looms.

“Hospital systems are being forced to make difficult decisions about how to care for patients when there aren’t enough resources to go around,” they wrote. “Our state is at a critical point in its fight against the pandemic and as elected officials, we must prioritize the health and well-being of our citizens above all other considerations.”

In a tart response, Kemp wrote that he’s repeatedly signed executive orders to streamline licensing requirements on healthcare systems since March. And he cited other measures he’s taken, such as activating up to 2,500 Georgia National Guard troops to help hospitals and directing $625 million to finance state-supported healthcare workers.

If the Democratic congressional delegation wants to help, Kemp added, the lawmakers could lobby for two key steps: Request a maximum rate for contract healthcare workers to end bidding wars between states, and demand clear guidance from the Biden administration regarding plans for coronavirus booster shots.

Our colleagues at the AJC have reported that the current wave of COVID infections is causing a critical shortage of ICU beds, nurses, even substitute teachers.

Last week, a state House Democrat suggested that Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp close all Georgia schools until children under 12 can be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Schools in Metro Atlanta reported more than 6,000 cases of COVID last week alone.


Former President Donald Trump is making his first post-runoff stop in Georgia, this time with a slate of supporters on the 2022 ticket at his side.

He’ll be headlining a rally on Sept. 25 at the Georgia National Fairgrounds in Perry, his campaign confirmed late last night, a few hours after one of your Insiders reported on the impending visit.

We can expect Trump to appear with his pick for Senate (Herschel Walker), Secretary of State (Jody Hice) and lieutenant governor (Burt Jones).

We can also expect Gov. Brian Kemp, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and others not in Trump’s favor to steer clear of the rally.

More uncertain is how Trump will handle Vernon Jones, who is challenging Kemp but whose toxic background -- and history of opposing Republican policies -- has so far kept an endorsement at bay.

And, yes, that is a football weekend in September. Before you check your UGA schedule, we’ll let you know the Bulldogs are playing the Vanderbilt Commodores in Nashville, at a time still TBD.

Georgia Tech is scheduled to play the University of North Carolina in Atlanta.


Speaking of Herschel Walker, we now have his first statement on where he stands on the abortion issue generally, although he did not offer specifics on either the Texas law that went into effect last week or a similar six-week ban passed in Georgia in 2019.

“Herschel Walker is strongly pro-life. He will always stand for the unborn and he will support constitutional conservatives for federal judges,” his campaign spokeswoman said.

We reported last week that Walker declined to comment on the Supreme Court’s decision to allow the new six-week abortion ban in Texas to take effect.


U.S. Sens. Jon Ossoff, Raphael Warnock and the six Democrats in the Georgia House delegation sent a letter last week to Democratic leaders making the case for Georgia projects to get priority in the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill.

The group made a novel argument-- that transportation dollars can also address disparities in minority communities, like high maternal mortality and limited access to job opportunities and even fresh food, by making it easier for Georgians to get to them on public transit.

“Access to mobility is a vital condition of health and opportunity,” they wrote.


The federal commission that will explore new names for military bases named after Confederate generals, including two in Georgia, is now soliciting public input.

A hat-tip to reporter Rahul Bali for being the first to post about the Naming Commission’s website, which allows people to recommend new names for Fort Benning and Fort Gordon, along with 10 other military installations.

The changes were authorized in the most recent Department of Defense Authorization bill.

Georgia’s U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, who is a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, is the only member of Congress on the naming commission.

Feel free to drop us a note with your suggestions.


The GOP primary for Georgia’s 10th Congressional District is heating up. U.S. Rep. Jody Hice opened up the seat when he announced he’ll run for Secretary of State instead.

Hice announced Tuesday that he’s endorsing GOP state Rep. Timothy Barr for the seat. “Timothy is a proven fighter who will put America first and be an active member of the Freedom Caucus,” Hice said in a statement.

If Hice’s written endorsement didn’t make his pick clear enough, he also stars in Barr’s first ad, which his campaign released Tuesday. In it, Hice gives Barr advice for serving in Congress to fight Socialism and cancel culture, among other things. The ad even includes Hice’s grandchildren playing with Barr’s children.

Barr is hardly the only Republican in the race to replace Hice. Mike Collins, whose father Mac Collins represented Georgia in Congress, will launch his campaign at an event in Jackson on September 16th.

Among the other candidates in the primary are former Georgia Revenue Commissioner David Curry, wealthy demolition man Matt Richards, and former U.S. Rep. Paul Broun.


U.S. Rep. Jody Hice’s campaign for Georgia secretary of state announced an “election integrity fly around tour” next week that will see him visit 12 counties over three days. In a post on Twitter, Hice included a flyer that says “securing our elections is Jody’s highest priority.”

Hice was among the supporters of former President Donald Trump who spread false claims that the 2020 election was fraudulent or mismanaged, and he voted against accepting Joe Biden’s electoral college votes.

As we’ve reported before, he isn’t the only candidate for statewide office whose campaign offers shades of last year’s “stop the steal” falsehoods.

Jeanne Seaver, a candidate for lieutenant governor, said she supports another statewide audit of the 2020 election results.

And Herschel Walker told Jeannine Pirro on Fox News in December, “I can guarantee you, Joe Biden didn’t get 50 million people voting for him. But yet people think that he’s won this election. Unless we get this president (Trump) back in office for four more years, he is never going to drain the swamp.” Biden won 81 million votes.

Georgia’s election results were audited and recounted multiple times, with Joe Biden’s win confirmed every time.


A new conservative group is launching a six-figure ad campaign targeting Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock’s support for a $3.5 trillion social policy package that Democrats could soon push through Congress, likely without GOP votes.

The 30-second ad launched Wednesday and labels the legislation a “power grab” that gives bureaucrats too much power and offers “handouts for radical environmentalists.”

The Democratically-aligned Center for American Progress details the dozens of proposals included in the bill related to climate change, which the Republican ad mocks as a “liberal pipe dream.”

“Who will pay for all the unicorns and rainbows? You will. With a massive tax hike, you will foot the bill for this liberal pipe dream,” the narrator says. “Call Raphael Warnock. Tell him to vote no on the trillion dollar boondoggle.”

Previous campaigns targeted Sens. Mark Kelly of Arizona and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire.

It’s another indication how Republicans hope to turn the debate over the budget blueprint package, which would be the greatest expansion of social services since the 1960s, into one of the toughest votes for Warnock and other vulnerable Democrats to defend.

The effort was financed by the Common Sense Leadership Fund, which is helmed by Kevin McLaughlin, the veteran Republican operative who led the National Republican Senatorial Committee in 2020.


With the federal boost to unemployment expiring this week, U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson is holding a job fair at West Georgia Technical College in LaGrange Wednesday.

Ferguson’s office expects at least 50 employers with more than 4,500 jobs available. The event is open to all Georgians, not just Ferguson’s constituents. The Newnan Times-Herald has more details, including the employers expected.


Another day, another indicted district attorney in Georgia. More from the AJC’s Bill Rankin:

The district attorney headquartered in Columbus on Tuesday became the third sitting or former top prosecutor in Georgia to be indicted this year.

District Attorney Mark Jones, who oversees the six-county Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit, was indicted by a Muscogee County grand jury for nine felonies, including allegations he tried to bribe two of his own prosecutors for $1,000 each.

Jones joins the Paulding County district attorney and the former Glynn County district attorney with being criminally charged this year.

- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


We told you in Tuesday’s Jolt that the Cobb County Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs has irked some people with its prison-themed game room event.

AJC reporter Joshua Sharpe, who was among the first to publicize the controversy, reported that the county may have had a change of heart after the outcry.

“This has (mostly) been removed from the county’s pages and calendars,” he wrote on Twitter.

The web page with the details of the planned game room experience, which challenged participants to imagine they’d been wrongly convicted to life in prison and then find an escape route after a prison riot, now reads, “Sorry, that event has expired.”


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