Patrons pack restaurants on Memorial Day as latest Gov. Kemp order lifts more restrictions

MARIETTA, Ga. — Customers packed into restaurants around the Marietta Square on Memorial Day even as Gov. Brian Kemp’s newest executive order lifted the final COVID-19 related restrictions from those and other businesses.

The new order, issued Friday afternoon and effective Monday morning, removed the remaining restrictions on restaurants, bars, live performance venues, and conventions originally put into place by Kemp shortly after he declared a Public Health Emergency back in March 2020. Kemp lifted several of the social distancing and mask wearing restrictions in restaurants earlier this month.

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In a statement released Friday, Kemp said, “as hospitalizations, cases, deaths and percent positive test all continue to decline, and with vaccinations on the rise, Georgians deserve to fully return to normal. With safe and effective vaccines widely available and the public well-aware of all COVID-19 mitigation measures, mandates from state and local governments are no longer needed.”

David McKoy, retired Marine Master Sergeant and ROTC teacher at Allatoona High School, was hesitant about the restrictions being lifted, but also happy to see them.

“I don’t have a problem wearing it,” McKoy said. “But again, my options are if I don’t have to wear it, I won’t. I could see it either way. I feel like we’ve got to move forward at some point. The way the numbers are going now, you know, they’re going down.”

Georgia is reporting its lowest COVID-19 case numbers in more than a year.

The new order also prevents public schools and school districts from requiring students, staff and teachers to wear masks, something the Georgia Association of Educators, the state’s largest teachers’ organizations opposes. So does rising Kennesaw Mountain High School ninth grader Calista Johnson. Her mother gave Channel 2 Action News permission to talk with her. She plans to continue to wear a mask to school, something the governor and his Executive Order allows.

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“I wish that they would’ve waited to issue that policy until everybody was fully vaccinated,” Johnson said. “Because now the students who aren’t vaccinated are going to be put at risk because they aren’t required to wear masks around people.”