Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Thursday signed an executive order that prohibits local governments from ordering businesses to adopt mask or COVID-19 vaccine mandates, saying the measure is necessary to “protect” private businesses.
The executive order bars local officials from mandating the orders, but allows private businesses to require masks or vaccines, Kemp told reporters during a press conference.
“There are some across our state who want to go back into lockdown mode,” the Republican governor said, noting the current indoor mask mandates in Atlanta and Savannah. “Local governments will not be able to force businesses to be the city’s mask police, the vaccine police, or any other burdensome restriction.”
The order comes as the state on Thursday reported more than 7,000 new CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus cases, and 46 deaths, state data shows. That’s up from 5,000 cases and 42 deaths on Wednesday.
A recent surge in CCP virus cases associated with the highly infectious Delta COVID-19 strain has prompted President Joe Biden to recently approve rules requiring that federal workers provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination or face regular testing, travel restrictions, and mask mandates.
The Pentagon meanwhile said on Aug. 9 that it will require all active-duty military personnel to be vaccinated.
The variant now accounts for at least 80 percent of cases in the United States.
Earlier this month, the Georgia Department of Public Health issued a news release stating that vaccination is “more urgent than ever,” amid the surge associated with the Delta variant.
“Unfortunately, we can expect COVID numbers to keep growing. People who are unvaccinated or skip their second dose of vaccine are targets for infection,” Kathleen E. Toomey, commissioner of the department said in a statement. “Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and the Delta variant. High vaccination coverage will reduce spread of the virus in your community and elsewhere and help prevent new variants from emerging.”
All three COVID-19 vaccines are being administered in the United States under emergency use authorization. Officials have suggested that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine could become Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved as soon as this month.
Meanwhile on Aug. 6, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that new data on the more infectious variant shows that no vaccine is 100 percent effective as fully vaccinated people are still capable of spreading the virus to others, although vaccinated people “appear to be infectious for a shorter period.”
The CDC added that breakthrough infections of the Delta variant seem to produce the same viral load in “both unvaccinated and fully vaccinated people,” bringing into question whether vaccine mandates are justifiable given the implications for government infringement on individual liberties.
The CDC didn’t return multiple requests for comment on the matter.
Kemp in a statement on Twitter said that his executive order will ensure that businesses in Georgia “can’t be punished by local governments for trying to make a living, pay their employees, and save their livelihoods.”
“Georgia is open for business!” he added.