ATLANTA — Georgia Governor Brian Kemp on Thursday signed an executive order banning local governments across the state from imposing any COVID safety restrictions on private businesses.
Governor Kemp’s executive order leaves it up to the businesses to decide if they want to require masks or vaccinations, for example, for employees and customers.
Atlanta’s mayor criticized the governor’s order, and said the city’s indoor mask-mandate is legal and will stand as-is.
It is a tightrope that business owners and managers are now walking at Firepit Pizza Tavern in Atlanta’s Grant Park neighborhood and everywhere else.
They know that since late last month there has been an indoor mask mandate in the City of Atlanta for private businesses such as restaurants.
The mayor re-imposed the mask mandate because of the increases in COVID cases due to the Delta variant, but Georgia’s governor has decided that local governments cannot tell businesses to observe any COVID safety measures.
So Firepit’s assistant manager Jay Sellers will continue to require employees to wear masks.
“Our policy is just to do what makes our customers feel comfortable," Sellers said.
Sellers said his business and many others cannot survive another shutdown in another outbreak.
“That’s why it’s more like I’m accepting of the idea of putting on masks and playing it safe just so we can stay open,” he said.
It is his business’s decision, which is just what Governor Kemp says his new executive order protects, by preventing local government from imposing COVID safety mandates on private businesses.
“Local governments will not be able to force businesses to be the cities’ mask police, the vaccine police, or any other burdensome restrictions that will only lead to employees being let go, revenue tanking, and businesses closing their doors,” Kemp said at the State Capitol Thursday after he signed the Executive Order.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms' office said Kemp’s COVID policies are partly to blame for the increase in cases in Georgia.
“A lack of leadership at the State level has resulted in Georgia ranking 48th nationally in fully vaccinated residents over the age of 12, subsequently ranking 7th in COVID-19 cases and 12th in deaths,” the mayor’s spokesperson wrote in an email to 11Alive. “Mayor Bottoms has followed the science and data from the onset of this pandemic. Masks save lives and it is absurd we must continuously defend such a simple, straightforward fact.”
The City’s indoor mask mandate will stay in place, because the mayor’s office says the mask mandate requires people to wear masks, but does not require private businesses to require or enforce COVID safety measures on their customers or employees.
Darrell Morgan of Atlanta, eating dinner at Firepit Pizza Tavern Thursday evening, said people just don’t like to be told what to do.
“The government assumes that people don’t think for themselves, in my minds’ eye,” he said. “I’m very, very hopeful that the City of Atlanta and the State of Georgia will recognize there are going to be more tragedies to come out of this, and everyone must contain this variant as much as possible.”