Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed an executive order Thursday prohibiting local governments from instituting coronavirus-related restrictions on businesses, such as mask mandates, but did not take action on schools doing the same.
“Local governments will not be able to force businesses to be the city’s masks police, the vaccine police, or any other burdensome restriction that will only lead to employees being let go, revenue tanking, and businesses closing their doors,” Kemp said in a press conference.
While businesses are permitted to impose COVID-19 restrictions or guidance at their own discretion, the governor’s order does not allow lawmakers to insist they do. This will most notably apply to mask and vaccine mandates that have been implemented in various areas.
Last month, major Georgia cities Atlanta and Savannah reintroduced mask mandates in public indoor locations. While the governor’s order puts a leash on businesses, it does not apply to school districts. Schools will continue to be able to put forth restrictions deemed fit and have continued to across the state.
Kemp’s office did not immediately respond to The Federalist’s request for comment seeking clarification as to why schools were not included in the order.
“[T]he governor has ultimate authority over the state’s emergency management procedures, because while other agencies and political subdivisions of the state may be directed or authorized to develop and implement emergency management plans, rules and regulations,” the law in Georgia “clearly provides that no such rules and regulations or order may be inconsistent with the governor’s own emergency management directives,” Kemp also said in the news brief.
Democrats are not pleased with Kemp’s order aimed at protecting individual rights. A spokesman for Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ office told a state outlet, “A lack of leadership at the State level has resulted in Georgia ranking 48th nationally in fully vaccinated residents over the age of 12, subsequently ranking 7th in COVID-19 cases and 12th in deaths.”
“It is disappointing, but not surprising, that amid historic COVID-19 infections and abysmal vaccination rates, Governor Brian Kemp would again attempt to proactively pre-empt local governments like Savannah from protecting themselves by following the science,” Savannah Mayor Van Johnson said.
Republican Texas Govs. Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida have signed similar orders. However, the Texas and Florida orders apply to schools.