Gov. Brian Kemp faced backlash this week after issuing an executive order that effectively reopened Georgia's beaches, the New York Times reports.
The shelter-in-place order superseded local mandates related to coronavirus, which meant any municipality that prohibited public access to its beaches would be forced to reopen them to the public.
"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," Josh Hildebrandt, director of public and governmental affairs for DNR, said in a statement. "This Executive Order thus lifted any local ordinances or orders that had closed or restricted access to Georgia beaches."
Photos from Tybee Island - @GaDNRLE and @ga_dps report no issues as they patrol the beach and surrounding areas. Beachgoers are mostly locals and complying with social distancing orders. We will continue to monitor conditions. pic.twitter.com/aS9OCGUTUC— Governor Brian P. Kemp (@GovKemp) April 4, 2020
Under the order, which went into effect Friday, residents are permitted to go the beach for exercise, but must adhere to social distancing guidelines.
Tybee Island city council voted to close its beach on March 20 in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. The town's mayor, Shirley Sessions, blasted the ordinance in public statement.
"As the Pentagon ordered 100,000 body bags to store the corpses of Americans killed by the Coronavirus, Governor Brian Kemp dictated that Georgia beaches must reopen, and declared any decision makers who refused to follow these orders would face prison and/or fines," she wrote. "While the beaches have to reopen under the Governor’s order, Tybee will not have beach access and parking lots will remain closed until further notice. It should also be noted that Tybee currently is not properly staffed with Emergency Medical Services and there are no life guards in place."
Earlier this week, Gov. Kemp received criticism for admitting that he didn't know asymptomatic people could spread coronavirus. It has also been reported that the virus can in fact be spread by swimming in the ocean.