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City leaders blindsided by Gov. Kemp's announcement of plan to reopen Georgia businesses

From Savannah to Jackson to Albany, mayors statewide say they didn't know it was coming.

SAVANNAH, Ga. — From Savannah to Jackson to Albany, mayors across Georgia say they didn't know it was coming.

"I was just as surprised as the rest of the world," said Savannah mayor Van Johnson Tuesday morning, less than 24 hours after Governor Brian Kemp announced his plan to reopen businesses statewide.

"The reality is, we’ve spent the evening trying to decipher the governor’s orders," Johnson said, "which in my mind are confusing and contradict existing orders. We don’t have a clue.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, city and county leaders had received few specifics about guidelines, enforcement, and basic implementation. They’ve been told they legally can’t disobey the state.

RELATED: With decision to reopen, Kemp draws all eyes on Georgia

“We can’t really answer the multitude of questions we’re getting from many of our businesses,” said Mayor Kay Pippin of Jackson.

Bo Dorough, mayor of hard-hit Albany, said, “The idea that barbershops are going to be open Friday and the theater is gonna be open next Monday? It is almost inconceivable.”

RELATED: Atlanta mayor on reopening Georgia: 'I can't reconcile the logic behind opening a bowling alley'

11Alive has confirmed that mayors were not given advance notice of Governor Kemp's announcement. Instead, the state reached out to organizations like the Georgia Municipal Association to do it for them.

But not everyone minded.

“Due to math, I really struggle in shutting down the entire county," said Mayor John Howard of Monroe, whose Walton County has seen far fewer cases than similar-sized counties in Georgia.

RELATED: Here's what businesses will reopen first in Georgia

“We had 63 cases," he said. "We have to give the people the ability to use their common sense. We had an expectation this was coming. And if they didn’t, I’m afraid they just weren’t paying attention.”

"We had 15 funerals this weekend," said Mayor Dorough. “It certainly is not time to lift the restrictions. We are not ready."

11Alive is focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. We want to keep you informed about the latest developments while ensuring that we deliver confirmed, factual information.

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