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Georgia’s governor signs order letting businesses ignore local Covid-19 rules

It was not immediately clear what impact the order would have on current local ordinances, such as mask mandates in Savannah, which apply to city buildings but not to businesses, and Atlanta, where the mayor’s order says violations won’t be enforced against businesses.
Kemp said Thursday his executive order “will ensure that business cannot be forced to follow local government ordinances regarding Covid-19.”

“Local governments will not be allowed to force businesses to be the city’s mask 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,” the governor said.

“I have been clear and consistent — we would protect lives and livelihoods,” Kemp said about his approach to the pandemic.

Kemp, a Republican, added that businesses can still choose to follow local Covid-19 ordinances, but are not required to do so.

The order tells businesses to implement measures that “mitigate the exposure and spread of Covid-19 among its workforce and patrons.” The order says that “may include” any measure proven effective to control the spread, but it does not require a particular step.

Georgia has no state mask mandate.

Democrats criticize move

Georgia’s Democratic Party issued a statement criticizing Kemp’s order, saying he “is forbidding local governments from protecting their own communities.”

“As public health officials, parents, and Georgians at large beg Kemp to take action to combat the current Covid-19 surge in our state, the only action he is apparently willing to take is one that will help Covid-19 spread in Georgia and undermine local efforts to control the virus,” party spokesperson Rebecca Galanti said Thursday.

Savannah Mayor Van R. Johnson, a Democrat, called Kemp’s order “disappointing, but not surprising,” and said Kemp was proactively preempting “local governments like Savannah from protecting themselves by following the science.”

Savannah’s indoor mask mandate, which covers city government facilities, city schools and early childhood centers, remains intact, the mayor said.

CNN has reached out to Atlanta officials for a response.

Cases and hospitalizations are rising in Georgia

As has happened in the country at large, coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have soared in Georgia since the early summer as the highly contagious Delta variant became dominant.

Georgia has averaged more than 7,400 new Covid-19 cases a day over the past week — more than 25 times what the figure was nearly seven weeks ago, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Cases have jumped since July 5, when the state saw its lowest average of 2021 (292 per day). The incline threatens to rival Georgia’s highest-ever case average, which was 9,778 daily on January 13, according to Johns Hopkins.

More than 5,500 Covid-19 patients were in Georgia hospitals according to data released Friday — threatening to surpass the highest number recorded in the last 12 months (6,181 in mid-January), according to the US Department of Health and Human Services.

That number was as low as 583 on July 6, according to HHS.

As for vaccinations: 40% of Georgia’s population was fully vaccinated as of Thursday, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Georgia’s Department of Health had the fully vaccinated figure slightly higher Thursday, at 42%.

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