ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp is vowing to fight President Joe Biden’s newly announced COVID-19 mandates, which now include requiring employers with more than 100 workers to mandate either vaccinations or weekly tests.
“I will pursue every legal option available to the state of Georgia to stop this blatantly unlawful overreach by the Biden administration,” Kemp posted on his Twitter account.
Speaking from the White House Thursday, Biden said the estimated 80 million Americans who have not been vaccinated have made COVID-19 “a pandemic of the unvaccinated.
“And it’s caused by the fact that despite America having an unprecedented and successful vaccination program, despite the fact that for almost five months free vaccines have been available in 80,000 different locations, we still have nearly 80 million Americans who have failed to get the shot.”
Biden also took aim at public officials who he said are “actively working to undermine the fight against COVID-19. Instead of encouraging people to get vaccinated and mask up, they’re ordering mobile morgues for the unvaccinated dying from COVID in their communities. This is totally unacceptable.”
Kemp has long maintained that Georgia will not lock down again or impose statewide mask mandates.
“The unvaccinated overcrowd our hospitals, are overrunning the emergency rooms and intensive care units, leaving no room for someone with a heart attack, or pancreatitis, or cancer,” Biden said. “We cannot allow these actions to stand in the way of protecting the large majority of Americans who have done their part and want to get back to life as normal.”
Earlier this week, two Georgia Democratic congressmen – David Scott of Atlanta and Hank Johnson of Stone Mountain – wrote a letter urging Kemp to enact a statewide pause on elective, in-patient surgeries. They also called for Kemp to extend licensing waivers for hospitals and health-care workers who provide critical services beyond the current waivers’ Sept. 19 expiration date.
“Hospital systems are being forced to make difficult decisions about how to care for patients when there aren’t enough resources to go around,” the congressmen said. “Our state is at a critical point in its fight against the pandemic and as elected officials, we must prioritize the health and well-being of our citizens above all other considerations.”
In response, Kemp urged Scott and Johnson to “request the Federal Emergency Management Agency to set a maximum rate for contract health-care workers” and “demand clear guidance from the [federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and the White House regarding COVID-19 booster shots and their detailed logistical plans to assist states in this enormous undertaking.
“My top priority over the last month has been to ensure hospitals across our state have the necessary resources at their disposal to deliver care to Georgians in need,” Kemp wrote.
The governor said he has directed the state Department of Community Health to increase state-supported hospital staffing from 1,500 to 2,800 and authorized up to 2,500 Georgia National Guard troops to assist hospital systems with non-medical staffing needs.
Biden also is signing an executive order requiring all executive branch federal employees to get vaccinated.
“We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin,” Biden said. “And your refusal has cost all of us.”
In a direct aim at governors who Biden believes have been blocking his COVID measures, Biden said, “My plan also takes on elected officials and states that are undermining you and these lifesaving actions. Right now, local school officials are trying to keep children safe in a pandemic while their governor picks a fight with them and even threatens their salaries or their jobs. If they'll not help - if these governors won't help us beat the pandemic, I'll use my power as president to get them out of the way.”
While Kemp opposes mandates, he has not stood in the way of local school systems in Georgia that wish to require masks.