ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp signed an executive order Thursday to "protect Georgia businesses."
During a 3 p.m. press conference at the State Capitol, Gov. Kemp said Georgia's unemployment rate has dropped for 15 straight months and remains the lowest of the 10 most populous states.
"Just as our economy has started returning to normal, small businesses from Savannah to Atlanta could not survive another round of shutdowns," he said.
Gov. Kemp said the executive order ensures private sector businesses cannot be forced to follow local government ordinances regarding COVID.
"Local governments will not be able to force businesses to be the cities' mask police, vaccine police, or any other burdensome restriction that will only lead to employees being let go, revenue tanking and businesses closing their doors," he said.
Gov. Kemp said businesses are able to follow local COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines if they choose to do so.
"I trust hardworking Georgians to know what is best for themselves, their families and their employees," he said. "And they know what is best when doing the right thing."
After the news conference, a spokesperson for Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms' office said "a lack of leadership" on the state level led Georgia to be ranked toward the bottom of the list nationally for fully vaccinated residents.
"Mayor Bottoms has followed the science and data from the onset of this pandemic,: the statement said. " Masks save lives and it is absurd we must continuously defend such a simple, straightforward fact."