Kemp refuses to mandate masks at school on same day 800 kids had to quarantine


Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA) said school reopenings went 'real well' despite several high-profile coronavirus outbreaks.

Gov. Brian Kemp announced on Monday that he will not require face masks in Georgia schools despite numerous coronavirus outbreaks across the state.

"We've given the responsibility to the schools, to the local superintendents," Kemp said, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Referring specifically to schools reopening amid the pandemic, Kemp added, "Quite honestly this week went real well," with the exception of a high school in Paulding County that made national news following a viral photograph of a crowded hallway.

Of Georgia's 180 school districts, only about a third require teachers to wear a mask. Less than 1 in 4 require masks for both students and teachers, the Journal-Constitution noted.

Hours after Kemp's announcement, the Cherokee County School District, located north of Atlanta, reported that more than 800 students and at least 43 staff had been forced to quarantine after coronavirus outbreaks at 19 of its schools. At one high school in the county, approximately 1 in 8 students were in quarantine, Georgia Public Broadcasting reported.

The Paulding County high school Kemp referenced experienced a coronavirus outbreak as well, with at least six students and three staff testing positive after the first week of school. The school was forced to cancel in-person classes for several days following the outbreak.

Even before classes resumed, 260 teachers and staff from the state's largest school district in Gwinnett County either tested positive for coronavirus or were forced to quarantine, the Journal-Constitution reported on Aug. 2.

Around the nation, many schools have rushed to reopen for in-person instruction despite a sharp increase in coronavirus cases among children. Between July 16 and July 30, the number of confirmed cases among children increased by 40%, with more than 97,000 new cases in that time period.

Kemp has mostly ignored health experts' advice during the pandemic in general.

In late July, even as experts continued to advise masks as a way to stave off infections, Kemp sued the city of Atlanta over mandate implemented by the mayor and city council that would have forced people to wear face coverings when out in public.

Kemp argued that the city had overstepped a statewide emergency order that encouraged people to wear masks, but stopped short of requiring them.

In April, Georgia was one of the first states to relax safety measures and reopen businesses, also against the advice of experts. As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases soared in late June and July, several mayors attempted to implement additional safety measures, such as mask mandates, to slow the spread of the virus.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Georgia had more than 202,000 confirmed cases and at least 4,138 people had died.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.