The Standard Journal

Kemp defends voluntary approach to fighting COVID-19

- By Dave Williams

ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp on Friday, Aug. 6, defended his decision not to impose mask-wearing or vaccinatio­n mandates on Georgians to stem the latest surge in coronaviru­s cases, hospitaliz­ations and deaths.

“I don’t believe we need to have a dictatorsh­ip in government telling what local school systems need to do, what private businesses need to do, what nonprofits need to do, or what individual­s should do,” Kemp said during an appearance at Ball Ground Elementary School in Cherokee County to mark the start of a new school year. “Individual­s need to make the best decision they can.”

Kemp said Georgians seem to be getting the message about the need to be vaccinated against COVID-19. He said vaccinatio­ns in Georgia have risen 66% since cases of the virus began to increase in recent weeks with the spread of the highly contagious delta variant.

“People who haven’t been vaccinated are realizing the delta variant spreads more rapidly, and they’re looking into getting vaccinated,” he said.

Kemp said his decision not to impose a statewide mask mandate in Georgia schools is driven by his

philosophy of local control.

“We’re doing the same thing we did last year,” he said. “We’re trusting the local school systems, the local boards, to work with their parents, work with their administra­tions, to make good decisions for each individual school.

“Every school is different. They’re different neighborho­ods, different counties. They’re rural. They’re suburban. They’re urban. … I’m confident our schools can make decisions at the local level.”

School districts have been doing just that, with some imposing mask mandates for students and teachers and others leaving it up to the individual.

Kemp has been facing pressures from both sides of the political aisle on the masking issue. Some Republican­s have urged him to prohibit school systems from imposing mask mandates on their own, while some Democrats have called for a statewide mask requiremen­t in the schools.

On Friday, Kemp urged the Biden administra­tion to move forward with formal Food and Drug Administra­tion approval of the COVID-19 vaccines.

“The vaccine is still under emergency authorizat­ion,” the governor said. “A lot of people won’t take the vaccine because of that.”

In keeping with the education theme of his appearance at an elementary school, Kemp strongly hinted he will follow through next year with the final installmen­t of a $5,000 teacher pay raise he pledged on the campaign trail three years ago.

In 2019, the General Assembly approved a $3,000 pay hike. Then this year, teachers got another $1,000 in the form of a one-time bonus.

Heading into the 2022 legislativ­e session this winter, the state is sitting on a large budget surplus.

“I have not forgotten the promise,” Kemp said, referring to his campaign promise of a $5,000 teacher pay raise. “We’re looking forward to working with the General Assembly on that issue.”

 ?? Jeremy stewart ?? Pizza Farm owner Tommy Sanders (center) is joined by his family as they mark the groundbrea­king for the new restaurant building on Marquette Road in Rockmart on Monday, Aug. 2.
Jeremy stewart Pizza Farm owner Tommy Sanders (center) is joined by his family as they mark the groundbrea­king for the new restaurant building on Marquette Road in Rockmart on Monday, Aug. 2.
 ??  ?? Brian Kemp
Brian Kemp

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States