As states across the U.S. implement stricter stay-at-home orders to combat the spread of COVID-19, Georgia's Governor Brian Kemp re-opened the state's beaches, despite having issued a statewide shelter-in-place executive order.
Tybee Island, one of Georgia's most popular beaches, voted to close its shores on March 20. The city's Mayor Shirley Sessions, who called the governor's decision "reckless," told Cheddar Monday.
The beaches, according to the order, remain open for exercise purposes only, banning objects like beach towels, coolers, and beach chairs, with violators subject to a fine.
"I felt like it was not the right decision for our community in helping to keep our residents, our city staff, our visitors safe," Sessions said, describing the congestion the municipality's 2.5 miles worth of shoreline faced. The mayor noted that if people were able to keep six feet of social distancing or their groups down to 10 or fewer people, "then that sounds like a great concept, but unfortunately that is not reality."
Governor Kemp's executive order also supersedes local rules regarding the coronavirus including the Tybee Island city's council's decision to ban vacation rental check-ins during the month of April to prevent travelers from staying in the city.
Sessions said locals have noticed more visitors arriving from locations undergoing heavy rates of infection. "We are now seeing more out-of-state tags coming from those hot spot areas, and that is very concerning to our residents," she said.
Despite some of Kemp's exemptions to his stay-at-home order, Sessions revealed that some local businesses were sticking with the city's previous measures. "We are also hearing from our business community who are saying that they too are listening to what our directives were, which formerly we said all nonessential businesses will close. And they adhere to that, and they're staying true to that."
For his part, Gov. Kemp defended his beach exemption on Twitter on Sunday, posting a video that purports to show a largely empty Tybee Island beach.