- Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp suspended all local mask mandates in the state on Wednesday.
- Around 15 cities and counties had mask requirements in place, but now people in the state are just “strongly encouraged” to voluntarily wear masks when out in public.
- This order was met with a lot of backlash from local leaders who see it as a direct threat to public health.
- Republican leaders in states like Oklahoma are also holding back on issuing mask mandates, while some, like Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, have decided to enact them.
Gov. Kemp’s Order
As the coronavirus pandemic spreads throughout Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp is suspending all local governments from enforcing mandatory mask orders in the state.
In an executive order issued Wednesday, Georgians were “strongly encouraged to wear face coverings” when in public, but the directive stopped cities and counties from enacting requirements of their own. According to the Associated Press, around 15 local governments had already adopted these kinds of mandates.
Kemp has long stated that local leaders have no power in enforcing these kinds of rules, but this order makes it official.
“No local action can be more or less restrictive than ours,” Kemp’s communications director wrote on Twitter. “We have explained that local mask mandates are unenforceable.”
Kemp is still encouraging those in his state to wear masks voluntarily, however, he previously told the Atlanta Constitution-Journal that a government mandate would be “bridge too far.”
“There’s some people that just do not want to wear a mask,” Kemp said. “I’m sensitive to that from a political environment of having people buy into that and creating other issues out there.”
Health officials have repeatedly said that masks are one of the most effective ways of slowing the spread of the coronavirus. Several studies have proven them to block transmission. Countries that had widespread mask-wearing have seen lower death rates from the coronavirus.
Response From Local Leaders
The state has seen a total of 127,834 cases and 3,091 deaths, and on Wednesday, 3,871 new cases were reported, which is their second-highest daily case count to date. Given the rising number of cases, Kemp’s order was met with backlash from local leaders.
“Governor Kemp does not give a damn about us,” wrote Savannah mayor Van Johnson. Every man and woman for himself/herself. Ignore the science and survive the best you can.”
Dunwoody mayor Lynn Deutsch posted a Twitter thread claiming that this order leaves grocery store employees, retail workers, and restaurant servers “caught in the battle” between Kemp and local governments.
“Our small businesses asked us to mandate masks,” she wrote. “Their employees are worried about being exposed. Without our mandate, some customers are pushing back and arguing about wearing a mask.”
Deutsch also says that this comes as hospitals in the area are struggling with patient increases and community spread.
“Incredibly sad for my community and Georgia tonight. Sorry that the Governor has chosen to politicize your health,” she added.
Mask Rules in Other States
Kemp is not the only governor in the country standing by the choice to not mandate masks. When Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt announced Wednesday that he tested positive for the coronavirus, he claimed he did not regret his choice not to wear masks more frequently.
“I don’t really second-guess anything,” he said in a press conference.
“I’m just hesitant to mandate something that’s problematic to enforce,” he later added when asked about imposing a state-wide mask requirement.
However, other Republican governors have recently made the choice to enforce mask mandates. In Alabama, Governor Kay Ivey announced that as of Thursday, the state will follow a mandatory mask requirement. That mandate will expire when the state’s stay at home order ends, which is currently at the end of the month.
“We are almost to the point where our hospital ICUs are overwhelmed,” she said during a press conference. “Earlier this week 87% of our ICU beds statewide were occupied. Folks, the numbers just do not lie.”
Cases and deaths as a result of the coronavirus are on the rise in Alabama. Texas has seen a similar increase. At the start of July, Governor Greg Abbott ordered that most Texans wear masks in public. This mandate applied to anyone in a county with more than 20 confirmed COVID-19 cases.
See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (Atlanta Constitution-Journal) (The Hill)
Conservatives Slam Elmo For Getting Vaccinated Against COVID-19
While critics accused the muppet of promoting propaganda, CDC data shows the shots are safe and effective.
Elmo Gets Vaccinated
Conservative politicians expressed outrage on Twitter after the beloved “Sesame Street” character Elmo revealed he got vaccinated against COVID-19 on Tuesday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently cleared the way for children between the ages of six months and five years to get vaccinated against the virus. The famous red muppet is three years old, making him finally eligible for the jab.
In a video shared by “Sesame Street,” Elmo said that he felt “a little pinch, but it was okay.”
Elmo’s father, Louie, then addressed parents who might be apprehensive about vaccinating their own kids.
“I had a lot of questions about Elmo getting the COVID vaccine,” he said to the camera. “Was it safe? Was it the right decision? I talked to our pediatrician so I could make the right choice.”
“I learned that Elmo getting vaccinated is the best way to keep himself, our friends, neighbors, and everyone else healthy and enjoying the things they love,” he continued.
Republicans Criticize “Sesame Street”
While some praised the video for raising awareness and addressing the concerns parents may have, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx) quickly lambasted the effort.
“Thanks, Sesame Street for saying parents are allowed to have questions,” Cruz tweeted. “You then have Elmo aggressively advocate for vaccinating children UNDER 5. But you cite ZERO scientific evidence for this.”
Despite Cruz’s claim, the CDC has provided ample resources with information on vaccines for children.
He was not alone in criticizing the video. Harmeet Dhillon, a committeewoman of the Republican National Committee for California, suggested that Elmo would be taking puberty blockers next.
Other anti-vaxxers claimed Elmo would get myocarditis and accused “Sesame Street” of promoting propaganda.
COVID-19 vaccines have been proven to be both safe and effective against transmission of the virus, but this is not the first time conservatives have turned their anger against a friendly-looking muppet who opted to get the jab. When Big Bird got vaccinated in November, Cruz and other right-wing figures accused the show of brainwashing kids.
Big Bird’s choice to get vaccinated was not a shocker though, clips dating back to 1972 show him getting immunized against the measles.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (The Hill) (Market Watch)
Uvalde Puts Police Chief on Leave, Tries to Kick Him Off City Council
If Pete Arredondo fails to attend two more consecutive city council meetings, then he may be voted out of office.
Police Chief Faces Public Fury
Uvalde School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo was placed on administrative leave Wednesday following revelations that he and his officers did not engage the shooter at Robb Elementary for over an hour despite having adequate weaponry and protection.
Superintendent Hal Harrell, who made the announcement, did not specify whether the leave is paid or unpaid.
Harrell said in a statement that the school district would have waited for an investigation to conclude before making any personnel decisions, but chose to order the administrative leave because it is uncertain how long the investigation will take.
Lieutenant Mike Hernandez, the second in command at the police department, will assume Arredondo’s duties.
In an interview with The Texas Tribune earlier this month, Arredondo said he did not consider himself in charge during the shooting, but law enforcement records reviewed by the outlet indicate that he gave orders at the scene.
Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw told state senators on Tuesday that some officers wanted to enter the classrooms harboring the shooter but were stopped by their superiors.
He said officer Ruben Ruiz tried to move forward into the hallway after receiving a call from his wife Eva Mireles, a teacher inside one of the classrooms, telling him she had been shot and was bleeding to death.
Ruiz was detained, had his gun taken away, and was escorted off the scene, according to McCraw. Mireles later died of her wounds.
Calls for Arredondo to resign or be fired have persisted.
Emotions Erupt at City Council
Wednesday’s announcement came one day after the Uvalde City Council held a special meeting in which community members and relatives of victims voiced their anger and demanded accountability.
“Who are you protecting?” Asked Jasmine Cazares, sister of Jackie Cazares, a nine-year-old student who was shot. “Not my sister. The parents? No. You’re too busy putting them in handcuffs.”
Much of the anger was directed toward Arredondo, who was not present at the meeting but was elected to the city council on May 7, just over two weeks before the massacre.
“We are having to beg ya’ll to do something to get this man out of our faces,” said the grandmother of Amerie Jo Garza, a 10-year-old victim. “We can’t see that gunman. That gunman got off easy. We can’t take our frustrations out on that gunman. He’s dead. He’s gone. … Ya’ll need to put yourselves in our shoes, and don’t say that none of ya’ll have, because I guarantee you if any of ya’ll were in our shoes, ya’ll would have been pulling every string that ya’ll have to get this man off the council.”
One woman demanded the council refuse to grant Arredondo the leave of absence he had requested, pointing out that if he fails to attend three consecutive meetings the council can vote him out for abandoning his office.
“What you can do right now is not give him, if he requests it, a leave of absence,” she said. “Don’t give him an out. We don’t want him. We want him out.”
After hearing from the residents, the council voted unanimously not to approve the leave of absence.
On Tuesday, Uvalde’s mayor announced that Robb Elementary is set to be demolished, saying no students or teachers should have to return to it after what happened.
We make it a point to not include the names and pictures of those who may have been seeking attention or infamy and will not link out to websites that might contain such information.
Texas Public Safety Director Says Police Response to Uvalde Shooting Was An “Abject Failure”
New footage shows officers prepared to engage the shooter one hour before they entered the classroom.
Seventy-Seven Deadly Minutes
Nearly a month after the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas that killed 19 children and two teachers, evidence has emerged indicating that police were prepared to engage the shooter within minutes of arriving, but chose to wait over an hour.
The shooting at Robb Elementary began at 11:33 a.m., and within three minutes 11 officers are believed to have entered the school, according to surveillance and body camera footage obtained by KVUE and the Austin American Statesman.
District Police Chief Pete Arredondo reportedly called a landline at the police department at 11:40 a.m. for help.
“It’s an emergency right now,” he said. “We have him in the room. He’s got an AR-15. He’s shot a lot… They need to be outside the building prepared because we don’t have firepower right now. It’s all pistols.”
At 11:52 a.m., however, the footage shows multiple officers inside the school armed with at least two rifles and one ballistic shield.
Law enforcement did not enter the adjoined classrooms to engage the shooter until almost an hour later, at 12:50 p.m. During that time, one officer’s daughter was inside the classrooms and another’s wife, a teacher, reportedly called him to say she was bleeding to death.
Thirty minutes before law enforcement entered the classrooms, the footage shows officers had four ballistic shields in the hallway.
Frustrated Cops Want to Go Inside
Some of the officers felt agitated because they were not allowed to enter the classrooms.
One special agent at the Texas Department of Public Safety arrived about 20 minutes after the shooting started, then immediately asked, “Are there still kids in the classrooms?”
“It is unknown at this time,” another officer replied.
“Ya’ll don’t know if there’s kids in there?” The agent shot back. “If there’s kids in there we need to go in there.”
“Whoever is in charge will determine that,” the other officer responded.
According to an earlier account by Arredondo, he and the other officers tried to open the doors to the classrooms, but found them both locked and waited for a master key to arrive. But surveillance footage suggests that they never tried to open the doors, which a top Texas official has confirmed were never actually locked.
One officer has told reporters that within minutes of the police response, there was a Halligan bar, which firefighters use to break down locked doors, on-site, but it was never used.
At a special State Senate committee hearing Monday, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw called the police response an “abject failure” and “antithetical to everything we’ve learned over the last two decades since the Columbine massacre.”
“The only thing stopping a hallway of dedicated officers from (entering rooms) 111 and 112 was the on-scene commander who decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children,” he said. “The officers have weapons, the children had none.”