Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp stated Friday that a mask mandate could cause unemployment in the state to rise. Kemp, however, still admitted that wearing face masks had benefits when it came to fighting the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19).
“This is not about masks,” Kemp told reporters at the Georgia State Capitol building in downtown Atlanta. “We all agree it’s good to wear a mask, in the right situation. This is about protecting the livelihoods of our citizens.”
Georgia held back the coronavirus without mask mandates
To make his case that the mask mandate is tied to unemployment, Kemp pointed to California. The latter, which made wearing face coverings anywhere outside the home mandatory in June, currently has an unemployment rate of 16.7 percent compared to Georgia’s own 7.6 percent unemployment rate.
He further highlighted how, in the town of Albany, Georgia, the residents fully embraced mask recommendations without the need for a mandate and were able to fight back against the coronavirus. Albany, which was the epicenter of Georgia’s outbreak, was able to effectively deal with the coronavirus by working closely with the state government, all without needing to force people to wear masks.
“They did what I am asking people to do now. And that’s to encourage people to wear a mask,” said Kemp.
Kemp further explained that many municipalities in Georgia are handling the coronavirus well even without resorting to a mask mandate. Signing an order forcing people to wear masks, Kemp believes, will not be a popular decision, and will likely not be enforceable. (Related: Harvard doctor wants U.S. to enforce national mask mandate; Surgeon General says order may lead to REBELLION.)
Kemp overrides mask orders and bans any future mask mandates
On July 15, Kemp nullified the orders of at least 15 local governments that had adopted some kind of mask mandate in their respective jurisdictions. Instead of a mask directive, Kemp has continued to encourage the voluntary wearing of masks. He’s even told Georgia’s football fans that, if they wanted the upcoming college football season to continue, they should wear masks.
Before the nullifications were enacted, mask orders were affecting some 1.4 million of Georgia’s 10.6 million residents in some of the state’s most populated areas. These included the capital of Atlanta, as well as major urban centers like Savannah, Rome and Augusta. Even Kemp’s hometown of Athens-Clarke County had a mask order.
Along with the revocation, Kemp’s new order also explicitly bans local governments from mandating masks on public property in the future. This effectively voids the requirements some local governments have enacted for entry into city and county buildings.
Kemp’s ban also prevents local governments from creating any new coronavirus restrictions beyond what the state has ordered.
Mask mandates band draws ire of Atlanta mayor
In response to Kemp’s ban on mask mandates, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said in a virtual press conference that the city’s mask policies will remain in place.
Bottoms believes that the city of Atlanta still has the power to place mask policies over buildings and properties that the city owns. She also accused Kemp’s ban as being politically motivated because of how long the governor took to nullify local mask mandates – both Savannah and Athens required their residents to wear masks over a week before Atlanta came around to doing so.
The mayor said that it wasn’t until Atlanta issued their own directives that Kemp “suddenly” took a strong position against mask mandates. This was around the time that President Donald Trump visited Georgia and was photographed with Kemp while not wearing a mask.
In response, Kemp filed a lawsuit Thursday against Bottoms and the Atlanta City Council, arguing that she had exceeded her authority by going against a statewide order.
The lawsuit states that, as mayor of Georgia’s capital, Bottoms has no legal authority to either modify, change or ignore an executive order from the governor of her state. Kemp reiterated that he believes masks are beneficial but said that people should be encouraged to wear them rather than forced.
In a statement, Bottoms responded to the lawsuit by saying that taxpayer money would be better spent by expanding the state’s coronavirus testing and contact tracing efforts.
“If being sued by the State is what it takes to save lives in Atlanta, then we will see them in court,” her statement said.
At least a dozen other mayors have said that they will be keeping their mask mandates in place, including Savannah Mayor Van Johnson who criticized Kemp during a news conference on Thursday.
“We will continue to follow the science,” said Johnson. “We will continue to provide masks, for free. We will continue to wear them. We will continue to mandate them. And we will continue to require them in our city.”
Kemp has still not gone forward with any legal action against the other mayors defying his ban on mask mandates.
As of Friday, Atlanta has 33,838 confirmed cases of COVID-19 – including Bottoms herself – and 782 deaths. This represents over 25 percent of all coronavirus cases in Georgia.
Learn about how the coronavirus is continuing to spread in America at Pandemic.news.
Author: Arsenio Toledo