ICYMI: Brian Kemp Slammed Over COVID-19 Mismanagement

September 27, 2021

Over the weekend, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution published two scathing editorials condemning Brian Kemp’s failed COVID-19 leadership and calling on him to ramp up action to boost Georgia’s vaccination rate and curb the spread of the virus. But while Kemp “puts politics before public health,” the Biden-Harris administration and Democrats are taking bold and popular steps to increase vaccination rates in Georgia and across the country and put an end to the pandemic. 

The forceful statewide backlash to Kemp’s mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic comes amid a weekend rally in which former president Donald Trump excoriated Kemp, suggesting a Democrat would do a better job of running the state. The slate of Trump-endorsed candidates for statewide office has also refused to endorse the incumbent governor, while even the Georgia GOP chair enthusiastically participated in what turned into a Kemp-bashing event.

“With his COVID-19 mismanagement under intense scrutiny and his own party bucking him, Brain Kemp is standing on thin ice across Georgia,” said Rebecca Galanti, spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Georgia. “Kemp took a deadly gamble in prioritizing politics to bolster his rocky re-election bid, and now Georgians are paying the price. Georgians will remember that while Brian Kemp and Republicans were playing political games with their lives, Democrats took decisive action to combat the pandemic and get Georgia back on track.”

Read the two Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorials below:

Opinion: Regents and Gov. Kemp on wrong side of history and science on COVID
Atlanta Journal-Constitution Editorial Board // 9/25/21

  • In a new public service spot about fighting COVID-19, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp proclaims, “Let’s take the politics out of it.”
  • We agree. With hospitals filled with COVID-19 patients and state fatalities above 21,000, Kemp can start by mandating masks at Georgia’s 26 public colleges and universities. The governor and the Board of Regents have resisted requiring masks this year because they fear political fallout, even though masks were required last year on public campuses. The 2020-21 mask policy came after intense pressure from student and faculty groups.
  • But Kemp’s voter base has now come to regard masks as a matter of personal freedom rather than public health, despite an unrelenting pandemic that’s killed about 680,000 Americans. Kemp describes mask mandates as “government overreach,” ignoring the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance that indoor masking limits the spread of the virus.
  • Kemp and the 19 Regents, appointed by governors to 7-year terms, may be willing to gamble with other people’s lives for political gain, but many college professors refuse to be complicit. Pronouncing the state’s campuses COVID-19 factories, Georgia College and State University journalism professor James Schiffman said, “This is one of those times when conscience requires me to take a stand against unsafe and unjust policies, to speak truth to power as we teach journalism students to do, and, as an educator, do my utmost to teach my students in the safest and most effective ways possible.”
  • In a Kaplan national survey of college students released this week, 79% endorse masks for indoor settings, and 72% favor colleges requiring them to be vaccinated if they want to attend in-person classes.
  • Many private colleges require masks and COVID-19 vaccinations for face-to-face classes. Among the more than 1,000 U.S. campuses with some form of mandatory vaccine policy are Emory University, Agnes Scott College, Oglethorpe University, Morehouse College, Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse School of Medicine and Spelman College.
  • The Regents and the University System of Georgia employ hundreds of experts in infectious diseases, viruses and public health, Yet, they have ignored petitions, faculty senate resolutions and campus rallies pleading for masking and vaccination mandates.
  • In a letter this week to the Regents, UGA faculty members in the life sciences said they intend to require masks in their classrooms and laboratories, saying, “To protect our students, staff and faculty colleagues, we will wear masks and will require all of our students and staff to wear masks in our classes and laboratories until local community transmission rates improve, despite the ban on mask mandates and the USG policy to punish, and potentially fire, any faculty taking this action.”
  • Kemp and the Regents are on the wrong side of science and history. Even among Republican-controlled Southern states, Georgia is an outlier. The flagship universities in Louisiana, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama and South Carolina require masks in classrooms.
  • Kemp is not only discounting the scientists within Georgia’s university system. He is ignoring warnings from historians that his politically driven actions in the worst health crisis to ever face Georgia will define his legacy.

Opinion: State needs to do more to fight COVID-19
Atlanta Journal-Constitution Editorial Board // 9/25/21

  • The state of Georgia should be leading the fight to conquer COVID-19 more forcefully and consistently than it has to date.
  • It’s intriguing to wonder whether Georgia would have fared better had Gov. Brian Kemp and the rest of state government kept the pandemic front and center throughout the course of this plague?
  • The results likely could not have been worse, given the more than 21,000 who’ve died of COVID here so far. And Georgia, its people and the economy that supports us all might well have been healthier than we are now.
  • Strong governmental leadership and communication is essential during a pandemic. And Georgia didn’t rise to that level — at least not consistently.
  • Instead, Gov. Kemp prioritized keeping the state’s economy running with as few hiccups as possible. That’s a fine goal, as far as it goes, given this state’s pro-business attitude has created prosperity for many here.
  • And it’s admittedly hard to do otherwise in a low-tax state with lean public infrastructure, including parts of our stressed health care sector.
  • Our state’s success demands that we better balance priorities. As an Atlanta-based public health expert wrote on these pages earlier this month, public health and the economy don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
  • They cannot be for this state to achieve all that it should in keeping residents both employed – and alive.
  • So Georgia needs to dramatically, visibly and consistently step up its coronavirus-fighting efforts.
  • Doing so will take much more than the short, new public service video Gov. Kemp’s office released last week, urging COVID vaccinations.
  • To be fair, that’s a welcome step. 
  • But it’s overdue, and it’s not enough. 
  • Not when fewer than half of eligible people here are fully vaccinated.
  • And the stats worsen when looking at Georgians who’ve had at least one vaccine dose. As of Thursday, only 46.9% of white Georgians are in that number, and 43.8% percent of Black residents.
  • These percentages, frankly, are pitiful for a state as influential as ours.
  • And they have to increase, given that most people dying now of COVID-19 in this state’s overrun hospitals are unvaccinated.
  • Georgia must work to quickly boost its count of vaccinated residents. And employ campaigns strongly endorsing other common-sense public health measures, such as wearing effective face coverings in public and frequent handwashing.
  • All are imperative to providing Georgia the safest harbor possible to keep both our people and economy healthy.
  • Gov. Kemp has stressed that these are matters of personal choice. And he’s denounced the likes of mask or vaccine mandates as government overreach.
  • He must know, though, that the best choices for individuals and communities are informed by sound insights and knowledge. That’s no small order in a day when misinformation and lies abound around COVID-19 and most anything else.
  • At minimum, the state can do more to help Georgians make the right decisions for themselves and their communities. Ones based on science and not ignorance.
  • On the whole, much of what Gov. Kemp and the rest of state government can achieve reasonably quickly is to preach loudly and often about the necessity for people to get vaccinated and diligently observe other precautions.
  • Regular press conferences and PSA’s should be part of this campaign. As should a reprise of the earlier, pre-vaccine travels around the state by Gov. Kemp and DPH Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey promoting mask-wearing.
  • This time, they can push both vaccination and mask-wearing.
  • It could not hurt, either, if our vaccinated governor used a mask when closely interacting with people in public. He can set a sound example here, one that could potentially save lives.
  • Gov. Kemp can also exert his influence on the many people in positions of power that governors appoint to public posts around the state.
  • He can urge, for example, the University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents to act more forcefully to help keep campuses safer. The Regents’ weak, delta-era policy of “pretty please do the right thing” around masking and vaccination is actually weaker than the mask mandate that was in place during the previous school year.
  • As a result, students, faculty, staff – and the communities that surround and support them – are unnecessarily at risk as too many flout the tepid-at-best guidance.
  • Georgia’s economy, people and public health are inseparably linked.
  • When workers, for example, fall sick to COVID-19 – or leave jobs because of fear of contracting it, given loosey-goosey measures around public health – Georgia’s economy suffers as it similarly would during a forced shutdown.
  • It is indeed up to Georgians to do what’s necessary to put the coronavirus behind us. Far too few people have thus far used the most-powerful tool to help assure our freedoms – taking the vaccine.
  • Improving public health and our economy demands that state leaders do far more to change that.


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