Is Georgia Gov Kemp right in his decision to forbid cities and counties to require facemasks?


Fact Box

  • As of July 17 in the United States there have been 3.5 million coronavirus cases and 137,864 deaths. 
  • Of the total cases in the U.S., 135,183 are unique to the state of Georgia with 3,132 deaths. 
  • Georgia's Gov. Brian Kemp banned Georgia's cities and counties from requiring mask-wearing in public places. On Wednesday, he voided orders from 15 local governments even though Kemp had earlier said cities and counties had no power to order masks during the coronavirus pandemic. CBS
  • Kemp was one of the first governors to ease restrictions in light of declining infections, but they began to rise in June. Nearly 2,800 people were hospitalized statewide on Wednesday with COVID-19 respiratory illness -- “the highest on record and a number that's nearly doubled since the beginning of the month.” 
  • The CDC reviewed the latest science from JAMA and affirms that cloth face coverings are critical in the fight against COVID-19, particularly when used universally within communities.

Bill (Yes)

Though widely criticized for doing so, Georgia Governor Kemp is right to forbid cities and counties to require face masks. Georgia was an early target of media criticism over its initial response to COVID-19 as it bucked the lockdown trend by making moves to reopen before any other state (though Colorado opened simultaneously). As it turns out, Georgia's approach has paid off, as its COVID-19 death rate is well below the national average and 'eight times lower than the state of New Jersey.' 

Governor Kemp rescinded the directives from the cities and counties because they were at odds with Georgia's Executive Order that encourages, but does not require, masks to be worn. The Executive Order explicitly prohibits cities and counties from codifying rules that are inconsistent with those issued by the state. Kemp explained that local officials had exceeded their authority by enacting regulations that are more restrictive than the state's – thus making them unenforceable.

Lest the media, or Kemp's political opponents, try to characterize Kemp's actions as reckless, Georgia's official guidance, as detailed in the Executive Order, strongly encourages the use of face masks in public. Additionally, it calls for adherence to CDC guidelines for washing hands, etc., restricts the size of public gatherings, and recommends vulnerable citizens shelter at home to limit the potential exposure to and contraction of the coronavirus. Aside from his concern that local officials exceeded their authority, Governor Kemp is worried that restrictive mask policies will hurt the Georgia economic recovery by forcing businesses to close. In context, Kemp's Executive Order forbidding cities and counties from requiring the use of face masks was the right thing to do.

Jennifer (No)

Governor Kemp is endangering the citizens he's responsible for by approving this measure. Kemp is not only 'not right;' he is violating his oath of office by not faithfully executing his duties as Governor. He is, in truth, abandoning them.

The question here is what Kemp hopes to gain by instituting a measure that effectively strips municipalities of their right to contain the virus in their jurisdictions. He is mimicking the actions of a president to whom he is more loyal than to the people he's been elected to serve, even as other GOP Governors issue compulsory mask orders.

The same is not so in Texas, which has taken a strikingly similar stance to Kemp. Texas Governor Abbott has drawn the line for cities making masking compulsory at businesses. Abbott's failure to set a statewide mandate in tandem with reopening has resulted in over 10,000 Texans hospitalized, and the situation in the Lone Star state is only getting worse. July 17 saw 14,916 new cases. Today, Governor Ducey of Arizona – similarly 'mask resistant' – addresses the media as Arizona's medical services reach the breaking point.

If Governor Kemp has been paying attention to Texas, Arizona, and other mask-averse jurisdictions, trusting the public to wear masks to protect themselves is a failing strategy everywhere it's attempted. Does the Governor genuinely believe that the return of college football in exchange for wearing a mask voluntarily is enough motivation to provoke compliance? Considering the nearly 3,908 new COVID cases as of July 17, the Georgia people should defy Governor Kemp's order and wear the masks for their sakes.

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