Gov. Brian Kemp speaks to members of the press before embarking on a statewide tour urging caution over the holiday weekend. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder
Big crowds over the long Labor Day weekend could create ideal conditions to spread COVID-19 and reverse the fragile gains made in recent weeks in Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp said Friday as he kicked off a new fly-around tour.
“This progress can be erased very quickly if we grow complacent and ignore the guidance and public safety measures that we have in place. Our state’s health and well-being rest on what Georgians choose to do over this Labor Day weekend.”
Kemp spoke in Chamblee before the launch of a statewide tour aimed at encouraging Georgians to take precautions over the holiday weekend, with stops planned in Valdosta, Savannah and Augusta.
Kemp say his hope is to head off another rise in cases like the one that came after Memorial Day weekend.
“It’s abundantly clear that case spikes, hospitalizations rise and deaths have increased after holiday weekends,” he said. “People forget that we are battling an invisible enemy, and unfortunately some let their guard down during these times, but we have come too far and sacrificed too much to turn back now. We must stay vigilant and focused in the days ahead and keep our state moving in the right direction.”
Georgia had the highest rate of new infections just a few weeks ago, according to a report from the White House Coronavirus Task Force. Georgia moved to seventh in the group’s latest ranking. Georgia remains in the red zone for new cases.
Some health experts have questioned Kemp’s resistance to a statewide mask mandate. He again expressed his opposition to such a rule on Friday, citing conversations with Georgia Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey.
“Look, that’s just not me,” he said Friday.
Last month, Kemp signed an executive order allowing local governments to implement mask requirements in some limited settings, shortly after he dropped a lawsuit against Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms over a citywide mask requirement and local restrictions on business.
“I believe that our local officials that have mandated that think that they’re doing the right thing to keep people safe,” he said. “We’ve given them the opportunity to do that. There’s also people that don’t need a government mandate to do the right thing. That’s why I’m here today asking people to be a part of the solution, not part of the problem.”
Kemp’s ban on large gatherings continues and restrictions on restaurants and other businesses remain in place.
“I know the law enforcement is very busy, and it’s hard to do some of these things, but I think this weekend in particular is a great weekend, if nothing else, to go out and verbally warn people about the guidelines, try to get them to adhere to them,” he said.
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