A ship with no one at the helm as Kemp rejects CDC guidelines on Covid-19
Amid a dramatic spike in COVID-19 and the highly contagious delta variant spreading through unvaccinated populations of Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp is going against updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines regarding face masks and continues to ban mask requirements in the Peach State. Kemp vowed he would not impose a statewide mask mandate or restrict business and public activities as he said “people here know how to protect themselves and their families.”
Long opposed to mask wearing to combat the spread of coronavirus, Kemp has dug his heals in on this issue after the CDC revised its guidelines and urged Americans to return to wearing masks indoors in areas where the disease is surging and break-thru infections are occurring. With Georgia ranking in the bottom 10 states for vaccination rates, Kemp focused on encouraging people to get vaccinated voluntarily.
The CDC estimates that more than three-fourths of coronavirus infections in Georgia are caused by the Delta variant. With educators and students in several districts poised to go back to school this week, one thing is clear, there is no collaborative leadership or unified message on this critical issue between the state of Georgia and the CDC. Kemp’s sophomoric posture is not sitting well with those who feel that he should be leading on this issue. They point to science versus politics when it comes to Covid-19 and the Delta variant. Many working families do not have an option when it comes to virtual versus in-person learning and must send their children back to the classroom. Concerned parents we spoke with say they only feel safe sending their kids back to school if there is a mask mandate in place, while others continue their protest of children being required to wear masks. Educators are also concerned. Verdaillia Turner, the President of the Georgia Federation of Teachers said, educators are “angry and scared ” and have expressed anxiety going back into the classroom under these conditions.
Political watchers in Cobb that we talked to say that instead of leading on this issue, Kemp is busy running for reelection. They point to Kemp wasting time taking shots at Stacey Abrams, a possible Democratic contender for Governor, and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. They think he should be taking a position that shows leadership on the virus instead of the back and forth with the Atlanta Mayor. In critiquing Kemp’s handling of the new variant and his resistance to the new CDC guidelines, they say Georgia is like a ship lost at sea with no ‘captain’ at the helm to guide us through this storm.
Many are ignoring the Governor’s position, including Mayor Bottoms. She issued an executive order last week that said all persons in a public place, including private businesses and establishments, must wear a mask or a cloth face covering over their nose and mouth when indoors. The next day, Kemp tweeted that the city should be focusing on the increasing crime rate. Bottoms shot back, saying “What’s ridiculous is that his strategy with crime seems to be the same as his strategy with COVID, to pick a fight with me. Vaccinations are down and crime and COVID are up across GA. He should stop trying to win an election by trashing Atlanta, the capital city of the state he leads.”
Kemp later turned his attention to President Biden as he took a swipe at the White House, saying mixed messages were leading to confusion, while he ignored the mixed messages he is sending out to citizens. While quick to hand out zingers and one liners, the life and health of Georgians lie in the balance with each decision or non-decision Kemp makes relative to the pandemic.
Following the new guidelines from the CDC, several school districts in Georgia have announced that they will require students and employees to wear masks. Atlanta, Clayton, DeKalb, and Gwinnett will require mask for students and teachers. Fulton is requiring them on buses only, while Cobb County and Marietta schools systems are not requiring masks.
Many cities have also joined Atlanta in enacting their own policies on wearing masks indoors and outside. The City of Savannah reinstated its face mask mandate last week as cases of the COVID-19 delta variant continue to surge in that city. “We have the ability to determine our own fate, our own destiny, by doing what we can do to improve our vaccine vaccination rates, and certainly if not improving our vaccination rates, to decrease the spread of this virus by simply wearing a mask,” said Savannah Mayor Van Johnson.
Kemp’s incalcitrant position on the masks and the virus is even more troubling with the latest report this week from the Georgia Department of Public Health. The agency tracked 4,000 positive Covid-19 tests, with that number continuing to rise. The number of hospitalized patients also continue upward with confirmed COVID-19 patients statewide on Wednesday at 1,674, up from 1,501 the day before.
The Georgia Department of Public Health said getting a vaccine is now “more urgent than ever” after a sharp rise in cases across the state.” Hospitalizations have increased by about 50% in the last 14 days, and deaths have increased by about 18% in the same period,” the department said in a Friday news release.