Hundreds of Georgia health workers have written a letter to Governor Brian Kemp, urging him to mandate the use of facemasks in public due to a recent spike in new COVID-19 cases. The governor is expected to receive the letter today.   

The health workers have also urged Kemp to shut nightclubs and bars and prohibit gatherings of over 25 people, including worship houses, citing the recent surge in new cases in the state.

The letter, signed by 1,150 people on Wednesday, says, “We are also seeing a very troubling increase in hospitalizations that, if continuing, will overwhelm our health care infrastructure, not only in metro Atlanta but also in rural Georgia.”

Atlanta physician and HIV expert Dr. Melanie Thompson told Georgia Health News (GHN), “We have an epidemic that’s getting out of control in Georgia.”

Kemp is launching a tour of Georgia counties to encourage people to wear facemasks. However, on Wednesday, he said the mask issue is becoming “over-politicized.”

“We’re doing the best that we can in our state based on science and data,” he said. “There’s a lot of people that don’t believe a mask mandate will work. I don’t think we’ll have to get to that point.”

This week, Savannah’s mayor announced that people should wear masks in public. Some states have even mandated wearing facemasks in public due to a recent surge in new COVID-19 infections.

Experts at Emory University School of Medicine said the state has experienced an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations over the past week.

Dr. Carlos del Rio, an infectious disease expert at Emory University, said, “We’re at a very critical point in the epidemic.

He said cases are growing at an “exponential rate” and not because of increased testing, “it’s because of transmission.”

Dr. del Rio has also expressed concern about a potential transmission problem on July 4 holiday. He said, “It’s important to get the message out. I’m really concerned about this holiday, about what people do.”

CEO of Emory Healthcare Dr. Jonathan Lewin has also expressed concern that if the coronavirus cases continue to increase at this rate, hospitals could eventually be overwhelmed. He said studies have shown that states and counties that require facemasks have better rates of mask use.

Dr. Lewin said, “The closer we can get to universal masking, the better off we’ll be. The last thing I want to see is an increase in lockdowns.”

“I think local leaders may want to be more forceful in requiring masks,” he added. “Masks protect economic recovery,” and wearing them should not be considered “a political statement.”

 The letter concludes, “You acknowledged that you are dealing with political considerations, but we urge you to rise above the political to make the health and safety of our citizens your foremost concern. Successful control of the virus will be your biggest political victory.” Dr. Thompson said health workers previously wrote a letter to the governor in April, asking him to shut down the state. However, Kemp did not reply to the letter at the time. Dr. Thompson said she is hoping for a reply this time.