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Gov. Kemp to introduce bill that will allow parents to decide if their kids wear masks in schools

He made the announcement on Twitter.

ATLANTA — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced Wednesday that he plans to introduce a bill that would allow parents to decide if their children will wear masks in schools.

"As some school systems continue to ignore the science, concerned parents, and the wellbeing of students, in the coming days my office will be introducing legislation to give parents the final say on masking for their children," Kemp wrote. 

Kemp tweeted a series of similar posts on Monday afternoon calling on the "remaining few systems with mandates to join the vast majority of Georgia schools" who don't have mask policies in place.

"Enough is enough," Kemp tweeted.

Speaking at a press conference Wednesday afternoon, the Georgia leader offered more details on the legislative decision.

“On the mask issue, I’ve been very patient," Kemp said. "I’ve been a local control governor. But, this has gone on for too long. Parents are beyond frustrated in a very small number of districts in our state about young children, especially, being masked.”

Kemp also noted that he will break down the details of the bill once it has been completed. As of now, he has yet to provide concrete details on what the piece of legislation will entail.

“We are working with our floor leaders and the my administration to introduce some legislation to address this issue," Kemp said. "We’ll have more details on that when we have it put together.”

As hospitalizations caused by COVID-19 continue to fall across the Peach State, despite lagging data still showing a sharp uptick in COVID-19 related deaths following the omicron surge, the Georgia governor claimed that things are returning to pre-omicron surge levels.

“If you look at the way our cases are right now, they are beyond on the path downward," Kemp said. "We are rapidly getting back to where we were. Our hospitalizations are dropping statewide. Our hospitalizations have been dropping in the metro areas for weeks now, and it’s starting to do that in south Georgia.”

The state leader's main focus, however, remains on trying to help parents that he says are increasingly frustrated with the local mask mandates.

“People are just beyond frustrated. Nobody seems to be following the data and the science anymore," Kemp said. "They’re following the politics. At this point in the pandemic, it is my belief that parents have the tools that they need to best take care of their children. That’s why I think we should just let parents decide whether their kids need to be masked or not. They are the ultimate decision-makers for the child’s healthcare.”

Health officials are cautious about removing mandates, despite cases from the recent omicron surge leveling off.

Medical Director of Infection Prevention for Wellstar Health System Dr. Danny Branstetter said people should continue to mask up and get boosted.

“We are seeing a decrease in (the) number of infections, but if you look at our daily number of new infections, we are at a higher rate than any other time in any other surge still," Branstetter said.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky agreed that now is not the time to drop mandates.

"I know people are interested in taking masks off. I, too, am interested. That would be one marker that we have much of the pandemic behind us," Walenksy said to Reuters in an interview. “Right now our CDC guidance has not changed. We continue to endorse universal masking in schools.”

Kemp has typically been a proponent of letting local school districts decide how they want to handle the pandemic. This is the first time he's calling on them to drop the mandates.

“I appreciate what the schools have been doing," Kemp said. "We’ve been there the whole time helping them get the resources to stay open and keep our kids in the classroom. But now it’s time to do this. Certainly this legislation, I hope, will send a message to those districts.”

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