ATLANTA (WSAV) – Gov. Brian Kemp signed a new executive order Friday that restricts school districts in Georgia from mandating masks.
The governor says staff and students can still choose to wear masks or be encouraged to do so, but schools can’t enforce it.
“As hospitalizations, cases, deaths, and percent positive tests all continue to decline — and with vaccinations on the rise — Georgians deserve to fully return to normal,” Kemp stated Friday. “With safe and effective vaccines widely available and the public well-aware of all COVID-19 mitigation measures, mandates from state and local governments are no longer needed.”
Right now, only those 12 and older can get the COVID-19 vaccine.
“If we look at the science, what we’ve learned over the last year when it comes to children under 12, we know that if they do get COVID they’re asymptomatic carriers that usually have mild illness if anything at all,” said Dr. Cecil Bennett, medical director of Newnan Family Medicine. “So they’re really low risk to begin with.”
Bennett says it’s reasonable not to mandate mask-wearing and leave it up to the parents. But some teachers say the decision should be left to local school boards.
“Until fully vaccinated, we believe everyone should continue to follow the guidelines,” said Lisa Morgan, a kindergarten teacher and president of the Georgia Association of Educators.
“When we are around our students who are not eligible to be vaccinated we are going to wear masks and maintain social distancing,” she said.
State School Superintendent Richard Woods says he’s on the same page as the governor.
“Given the availability of vaccines and the sharp drop in COVID cases, I agree with Governor Kemp that it’s time for our schools to return to normalcy,” a statement from Woods reads.
This isn’t the first time the governor has issued a mask mandate preventing local jurisdictions from superseding his decision.