There is a lot of confusion in Georgia this weekend as an executive order issued by Governor Brian Kemp saying that “any local ordinance or order adopted or issued since March 1, 2020,” relating to the coronavirus pandemic was suspended.
Most Georgia beach communities had ordered the beaches closed after March 1, meaning those ordinances were suspended and the beaches were opened — whether the towns wanted them open or not.
Instead of carving out an exception for public beaches, the governor’s administration doubled down and admitted that yes, the beaches were now open.
In a statement to local news station WJCL, Josh Hildebrandt, director of public and governmental affairs, said that, yes, the beaches are now open.
“The Governor’s Executive Order suspends the enforcement of any local ordinance or order adopted or issued since March 1, 2020 that relates to COVID-19,” Hildebrandt said. “This Executive Order thus lifted any local ordinances or orders that had closed or restricted access to Georgia beaches.”
The measure appears to encourage exercise in an effort to make isolation and social distancing more tolerable.
Tell me the truth, boys and girls: do you go to the beach to “exercise”?
One Georgia lawmaker was apparently really hearing it from his constituents and took to Facebook to explain.
Tybee state Rep. Jesse Petrea took to Facebook to address questions and concerns from constituents about the beach reopening.
“I understand that people are highly stressed now but the vitriol is unwarranted,” he said, adding that “At NO time have I advocated for ‘opening the beach.’”
But it’s OK because they’re going to enforce social distancing.
Petrea said that although the beaches are reopening, social distancing will be enforced, no congregating is allowed, and Rangers will be on patrol to ensure rules are followed.
Not too many citizens were convinced.
“We are inviting death to our doorsteps,” one commenter said. “Sheriff’s deputies can not even handle the misdemeanor acts right now. How do we expect sheriff deputies to patrol 3 miles of beach 24/7?”
Indeed, a local mayor said her town wasn’t ready.
“We’re not prepared to open the beaches. We’re not prepared, we don’t have the resources needed to implement to make sure that people are standing 6 feet apart,” Tybee Island Mayor Shirley Sessions said in a statement.
Governor Kemp would do well to sheepishly admit his mistake and shutter the beaches again. Besides, I doubt whether too many people will want to go on a holiday during a pandemic.
Better to sit at home and binge-watch “Cake Wars” like Sue and I are doing.