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Kemp unlikely to overhaul Georgia coronavirus restrictions

By Greg Bluestein, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga

‘Kids need to be back in the classroom,’ he adds

Dawsonville – Gov. Brian Kemp indicated Tuesday he wouldn’t make significant changes to the slate of coronavirus restrictions that are set to expire this week, though he vented his frustration at Georgia school systems that have yet to return to face-to-face learning.

At a stop in Dawsonville, the Republican repeated his assertion that “kids need to be back in the classroom” and pointed to his administration’s efforts to prepare school systems to reopen their doors. But he said he wouldn’t take executive action to force them to do so.

“I’ve been a local control governor. I’ve been consistent on that,” he said, adding: “That is a local decision. I know that parents are frustrated. It’s pandemic politics in a lot of cases. There’s a lot of school systems going back, and they’re making it work. And I applaud them for that.”

Many parents around the state have sent their children into classrooms for weeks, though some metro Atlanta school districts are just beginning to prepare for face-to-face learning. Others are either going exclusively online or making students choose between that or a full-time in-person experience.

Georgia’s efforts to stem the spread of the disease are showing signs of traction. The latest report from President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force moved Georgia out if its most severe “red” category for the first time in months.

Since mid-July, Georgia has reported declining cases in nine out of the past 10 weeks, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis of state data shows. The current seven-day rolling average of new cases of 1,135 is down about 70% from the July peak, an AJC analysis of state data found.

Kemp’s latest 51-page order, signed two weeks ago and set to expire by Thursday, for the first time sets up a three-phase system for in-person visits based on the rate of coronavirus testing, the length of time the home has gone without a new case and other factors such as community spread.

It also renewed safety guidelines for restaurants, bars and other businesses to follow to stay open. And it extends a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people, which has become a focus of public health experts who have encouraged him to impose stricter limits.

Kemp on Tuesday rejected that notion, saying that his discussions with Dr. Kathleen Toomey, the state’s public health commissioner, convinced him that Georgians might rebel.

“It’s a great idea, but people are over that. One of the things that Dr. Toomey and I have tried to do is to make sure that we’re putting things out there that people can buy into,” he said. “And to go backwards on that, I just don’t think people are going to comply with it.”