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Jack Kingston addresses the crowd gathered at the Brunswick Country Club for a retirement party for Woody Woodside in May 2019.

Former U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston’s 22 years representing Georgia’s first district ended in 2015 with an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate in the Republican primary, but he remains active in national affairs.

Kingston was guest speaker, via teleconference, at Tuesday’s St. Simons Rotary Club meeting. Members listened to Kingston’s presentation and were able to ask questions via Zoom.

Kingston said he now works in the Washington office of the International Consulting Firm Squire Patton Boggs. He serves as a consultant and lobbyist for business clients and others wanting to interact with members of Congress and regulatory agencies.

His focus is on agriculture, defense, education, energy financial services, health care, tax, transportation, trade and international business.

Early in the meeting, which was mostly a question and answer session, Kingston was asked about Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s shelter in place order, which superseded local orders to close beaches.

Kingston said a photo circulated by the media in other areas showing crowds ignoring social distancing on beaches is actually an older photograph taken before the health advisories. The question he said that needs to be resolved is personal rights versus protecting the public.

“I’ve heard from people unhappy with the decision to open beaches,” he said. “Caution has to be the byword.”

Kingston said he is aware of the potential for one person to be the cause of an outbreak like the one in Albany attributed to one person from Atlanta who attended several funerals. So far, 939 cases and 52 deaths are attributed to the coronavirus outbreak in Dougherty County, where Albany is the county seat.

Concerns were also expressed by Rotarians about the governor’s decision to allow short-term rentals, which could attract people seeking to escape virus hot spots in the Northeast.

“We’re not certain when Congress will take another step,” Kingston said. “Everything is very fluid.”

Kingston also discussed U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter’s, R-1, proposal to reevaluate the nation’s dependence on China for many of the pharmaceutical drugs, including some used to treat coronavirus patients.

“We need to have a more equitable supply of medications,” he said.

Kingston said the federal government would have responded faster to the health crisis if China had been more forthcoming with information.

“Coronavirus was not a household word in December,” he said. “China has not been good about sharing data.”

It wasn’t until the outbreak in Italy that data surfaced showing the potential impact COVID-19 could have on the United States, he said.

He expressed confidence the federal government, in cooperation with the private sector, will respond quickly to save as many lives as possible. Private companies are manufacturing medical equipment health providers will need to respond to the growing health crisis, he said.

One meeting participant said she was hospitalized in isolation for eight days with coronavirus-like symptoms. She believes the test result indicating she did not have the virus was a false negative and asked how she could be retested.

“How do I find out if I’m safe to be around others?” she asked.

Kingston said it might be difficult to be retested because this area is not a COVID-19 hot spot. That’s not to mean there aren’t others who don’t realize they have contracted the virus in the region, he said.

“A lot of people are asymptomatic,” he said. “How can you get tested? You need to get out in public.”

The woman said it took 13 days for her test results and asked Kingston why it took so long.

“It’s a new virus. Testing has been a problem,” he said.

He suggested people who have recovered from the virus be among the first to return to work. Others need to remain careful until the health advisories are lifted.

“If you get it you can spread it,” he said. “We’re all focused on coronavirus.”

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