Fighting COVID-19 in Georgia
By Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John F. King
While the COVID-19 outbreak started as an international story that felt distant to many of us, this global pandemic has clearly become an issue impacting Georgians in every corner of our state.
On Wednesday evening, we eclipsed 1,387 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Georgia – and 47 deaths. Schools are closed, many businesses have shuttered, and millions of our citizens are practicing social distancing as we work to “flatten the curve” and stop the spread of COVID-19.
This dangerous threat requires a strong, coordinated response from both the public and private sectors. We are in this fight together and need all hands-on deck.
I was honored to be asked by Governor Kemp to serve on Georgia’s Coronavirus Task Force and lead the Emergency Preparedness Committee, where I am working to ensure we have the proper equipment and processes in place to respond appropriately to this ongoing health crisis. Our Committee is hard at work looking at the data and putting together recommendations to pass on to Governor Kemp for implementation.
In short order, we have partnered with the Governor to remove regulations on trucking companies to keep much-needed food and supplies on our grocery store shelves. We are also looking at other regulations to relax on our hospitals and pharmacies that will make it easier to treat individuals with COVID-19-related symptoms and prioritize those who need additional care.
One key tool is telemedicine, where doctors can examine and diagnose patients either over the phone or via video chat. This allows those who are ill to avoid visiting crowded ERs or doctor’s offices – needlessly exposing Georgians to this highly contagious virus. We are diligently working with the Governor and the insurance industry to ensure more Georgians have access to telemedicine, expand insurance coverage for the service, and help patients find additional information.
As Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner, I am also looking for ways to support both Georgia families and small businesses during this outbreak. We recently directed health insurers not to cancel health policies for non-payment until further notice. We also asked insurers to waive all co-pays for COVID-19 testing and called on private labs providing these tests to keep costs at a minimum. During a global pandemic, no one should be denied treatment for financial reasons – and people shouldn’t lose their health coverage due to the economic instability fostered by the coronavirus.
Finally, to better help businesses struggling to weather the storm, we’ve committed to expediting our review process for any insurers interested in writing new Business Interruption Insurance policies specifically aimed at covering COVID-19 claims. We’ve also made a number of changes to benefit local insurance agents in your community, including waiving all non-federal filing deadlines and requirements and waiving late filing fees.
Here’s my commitment: We will do our part to not only help in the fight to stop COVID-19, but to play a vital role in the recovery efforts as well.
As a Major General in the United States Army National Guard, I am assigned to Contingency Command Post 1 and Task Force 51 in the US Army North, where we are responsible for responding to disasters across the country. This week, I will be deployed to join the country-wide battle against COVID-19. While working to secure the border and prevent spread, I will remain focused on the needs of Georgians from every corner of our great state. Rest assured, I will continue to be in constant communication with the Governor, his Task Force, and my office to ensure that we continue to keep Georgia’s families and communities strong.
This crisis did not happen overnight, nor will it be solved quickly. But I am confident that Georgians are up for the challenge. By following the guidelines provided by President Trump, Governor Kemp, and the Centers for Disease Control, we can do our part to stop the spread of coronavirus. With your help, we can end this pandemic and ensure a brighter, safer, and healthier tomorrow!