As the number of COVID cases continues to rise, Governor Brian Kemp made a quick stop in Columbus today.
He was urging all Georgians to wear masks and face coverings to combat the spread of the virus.
And he had a warning designed to get the attention of football fans.
Kemp, who is from Athens and graduated from the University of Georgia, said if you wanted Georgia football — or any other football this fall — put a mask on NOW.
“If you want to have college football with fans in the stadium; if you want to go to a Braves game; if you want to go to your kids’ high school game and watch them on the field cheerleading or being in the band or watching a team, I would urge you to wear a mask over the next two or three weeks,” Kemp said. “Especially over this busy July 4th weekend.”
The state’s top health official, Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey, says this is aimed at young people. As the COVID crisis continues, this phase is seeing more young people infected.
She’s playing the football card, too.
“It’s a sacrifice you have to make now, but it’s going to pay dividends for all of us so we get our football back,” she said.
Even Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson made the pitch during this morning’s news conference at Piedmont Columbus Regional.
“It could make a significant difference, not just in football, but in your kids’ sport, in fall baseball, in little league football,” Henderson said. “All of that could be impacted simply by a single decision that we make to not wear a mask.”
Football is just a game, but the numbers that are now coming in across Georgia show that the crisis is far from over.
More than 8,400 Georgians have had the virus and more than 2,800 have died. As of Wednesday, 1,741 Muscogee County residents have tested positive for COVID-19. There have been 49 deaths in Columbus.
“The spread continues in our state,” Kemp said. “We have seen recent upticks throughout the country, as well as in Georgia. And this is a clear reminder that we are not out of the woods yet. … The reason that we are here is we are asking people to remain vigilant in the fight to protect the lives and livelihoods of all Georgians.”
And that means wear a mask, Kemp said.
The day after the city of Savannah made wearing masks mandatory, Kemp said that he was not willing to do that on a statewide level.
“We’ve got a government mandate on speed limits and people violate it every day,” said Kemp.
Kemp called a lot of what was going on pandemic politics, and said he and Toomey don’t have time for that as they lead the state’s efforts.
Kemp did not say what he was going to do about Savannah’s mask order. But it appears to fly in the face of the state public health order by Kemp that overrides all local orders.
“What I would encourage all mayors to do is to do exactly what we are doing, show public support for people wearing masks and socially distancing themselves,” Kemp said. “That is the best thing that we can do.”
Henderson says he is not ready to order everyone to wear a mask, but says he and the city attorney’s office are closely watching what happens in Savannah.