Brian Kemp’s Failure to Lead on COVID-19 Haunts Re-Election Bid

July 7, 2021

“A lot of people were hurt, and a lot of people died when they didn’t need to”

With Brian Kemp officially launching his re-election bid this weekend, the numerous ways he failed Georgians during COVID-19 are poised to haunt his campaign. A public health expert summed up Kemp’s management of the public health crisis best, saying: “A lot of people were hurt, and a lot of people died when they didn’t need to.”

“As Kemp prepares to launch his re-election campaign, he will no doubt try to rewrite his well-recorded history of failed leadership during COVID-19 pandemic, from botching the vaccine rollout to ignoring dire warnings from public health officials,” said Rebecca Galanti, spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Georgia. “Brian Kemp left Georgia families behind at every turn of this pandemic, and his failed leadership delayed our recovery and cost too many Georgians their lives and livelihoods. Come November 2022, Georgians will remember how time and time again, Brian Kemp put politics ahead of their health and safety.”

A reminder of how Brian Kemp failed Georgians during the pandemic:

Kemp was “slow to act on early warnings about the pandemic’s severity”

  • In late March 2020, while public health experts in Kemp’s administration were sounding the alarm on how bad the pandemic could get, Kemp “refused for weeks to shut down businesses or impose other restrictions.”
  • Kemp waited until April 2 to issue Georgia’s much-overdue stay-at-home order, incredulously claiming that he hadn’t known the virus could spread asymptomatically, despite later reports that his team had received direct warnings about community spread a month earlier. 
  • Georgia’s stay-at-home order came well after other states, with thirty-nine governors issuing similar orders before Brian Kemp came around.

Kemp’s “ranked economic concerns ahead of public health imperatives” in re-opening

  • In late April 2020, just three weeks after imposing a lockdown and with the virus still ravaging Georgia communities, Kemp allowed many businesses to reopen, including indoor dining establishments.
  • Medical experts decried the decision, with one Macon physician writing that Kemp’s “approach flies in the face of science and evidence.”
  • Even as the second wave took hold in late spring, Kemp “allowed more and more crowd-intensive activities to resume, despite the surge of new cases and deaths.”
  • Kemp and his administration “withheld critical information showing the pandemic was worsening” even as he lifted restrictions.

Kemp “rejected advice from…health officials as the pandemic’s second wave gathered”

  • Kemp re-opened amusement parks in May, one day after his own Department of Public Health warned him not to.
  • In June, Kemp re-opened bars and night clubs, despite the fact that public health officials “thought this was a bad idea.”
  • Kemp ordered entertainment venues open in July, disregarding objections from state epidemiologists.
  • Kemp ignored a letter from thousands of Georgia health care workers, who wrote begging him to impose a mask mandate.

Kemp botched vaccine distribution and oversaw “slow COVID vaccine rollout”

  • Georgia’s Republican leaders, including Brian Kemp, “underfunded public health for at least a decade,” leaving Georgia ill-prepared to effectively distribute vaccines.
  • Ever since the vaccine went into production and distribution, Georgia consistently lingered at the bottom of vaccination rates, with experts noting how the “rollout has brought the underlying issues with the state’s health system into the spotlight.”
  • Even once President Biden ramped up vaccine production, Georgia remained in last place among states in vaccination rates due to Brian Kemp’s “poor execution” and  “inefficient logistics” in vaccine distribution.

Kemp declared early victory against COVID-19 and took credit for Democrats’ leadership

  • In April 2021, Kemp rolled back most of Georgia’s remaining COVID-19 restrictions, making Georgia one of the earliest states to do so. This came despite warnings from officials and Georgia’s consistently low vaccination rate under Kemp’s failed leadership.
  • Kemp celebrated a return to normalcy and lowered infection numbers, conveniently neglecting to credit the massive economic relief, influx of vaccines, and public health investment that came Georgia’s way under President Biden and Democrats’ American Rescue Plan.

Kemp cut remaining lifelines to struggling Georgia workers 

  • Kemp announced that he would end – three months ahead of schedule – the $300 weekly federal unemployment benefits enacted to help Georgians during the pandemic, a move which local experts warned was shortsighted.
  • Though Kemp claimed that federal benefits were keeping Georgians from finding work, experts say there is little evidence that enhanced unemployment benefits have impacted hiring squeezes.
  • Local experts and advocacy groups warned that the decision would disproportionately harm women and Black workers in Georgia.


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