The executive order “strongly encourages” everyone to wear face masks and continues a ban on gatherings of people, but also forbids municipalities from making any rules that are “more restrictive” than Kemp’s — singling out mask regulations in particular as illegal.
Kemp was criticized Thursday for the order, as Georgia’s number of cases rose to 127,761, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Here’s what you need to know:
Although Kemp Kept Many of the State’s Coronavirus-Related Restrictions in Place, He Called Mask Mandates a ‘Bridge Too Far’
Kemp’s executive order rescinded local rules mandating masks in Atlanta and Savannah, and more than a dozen other localities, NPR reported.
DeKalb County officials had just imposed their own mandate that people wear masks in certain public places when the executive order came down, according to the Champion Newspaper. Violators of the mask rule could face a fine of up to $500 in DeKalb before Kemp rescinded the mandates.
Mask Up! COVID-19 continues to spread throughout Georgia. Wear a mask to help fight the spread of the virus. pic.twitter.com/1ZMu9xxqjg
— DeKalb County, GA (@ItsInDeKalb) July 10, 2020
DeKalb County Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson told the AJC that she was outraged by Kemp’s order and compared it to President Donald Trump’s handling of coronavirus, which has been widely criticized.
“With the rate of COVID-19 infections and deaths in Georgia on the increase, I’m alarmed, outraged and saddened that Kemp is using his power to stop local officials from doing what he should have done long ago, which is to require that people wear a mask when in public,” Davis Johnson told the outlet. “From the White House to the Governor’s Mansion there is no leadership on this issue.”
Kemp’s order still “strongly encourages” mask-wearing in public.
Heavy reached out to Kemp’s office, asking the thinking behind suspending local mask orders. Candice Broce, his director of communications, said that Kemp’s previous orders have also “clearly preempted local action that is more or less restrictive than his for months now.”
“He continues to encourage Georgians to wear masks in public,” Broce said.
Georgia Just Experienced its Second-Highest Volume of Coronavirus Cases Since the Pandemic Began; More Than 3,000 Have Died
On Wednesday, Georgia logged 3,872 new cases, bringing the state’s total to almost 128,000, 11 Alive reported. For about a month, the state has had an average of 18 more deaths per day, the outlet reported.
Wednesday’s new case load was the second-highest since the pandemic began, according to NPR, with more than half of new cases being reported in Atlanta. Consequently, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottomss office told Newsweek Thursday that the city’s mask mandate will remain in place, despite Kemp’s order.
“The Mayor’s Order remains in effect, as science and data will continue to drive the City’s decisions. Masks save lives,” a spokesperson told the outlet.
Last Friday, Lance Bottoms rolled the city back to a restrictive Phase 1 of reopening, keeping people home except for essential trips, in the face of rising case numbers, NPR reported.
Heavy reached out to Lance Bottoms’ office for further comment, but had not heard back as of Thursday afternoon.
Kemp’s Executive Order Was Widely Panned by Georgia & National Media, With Former Gubernatorial Stacey Abrams Then Trending
On Thursday, former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams was trending on Twitter in connection with Kemp’s executive order.
Medhi Hasan, a reporter with the Intercept and Al Jazeera English, said Georgia “should have had” Abrams — she lost the 2018 general election to Kemp 49-50 percent. Hasan added the hashtag #BrianKempResign.
In fact, you could argue that, without voter suppression, they *would have* had Stacey Abrams.
So voter suppression isn't just wrong, undemocratic, and racist.
— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) July 16, 2020
Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder also tweeted that Kemp’s order was “insane and irresponsible,” adding, “Georgia, you could have had Stacey Abrams.”
Abrams herself spoke with Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC Wednesday night and accused Kemp of “fiddling while Rome burns.”
“There’s been absolutely no competency in this process,” Abrams said. “Kemp continues to downplay not only the challenges to Georgians, but also the deaths of Georgians … He continues to fiddle while Rome burns. This is not a man who’s capable of leading.”