Georgia mayor blasts Kemp’s “reckless mandate” that allows beaches to reopen

Tybee Island mayor clashes with Gov. Kemp over shelter-in-place order

TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. — Georgia’s beaches have been allowed to reopen under the statewide shelter order that went into effect Friday.

But leaders in one city are not happy with the decision.

Tybee Island Mayor Shirley Sessions issued a statement Saturday, blasting Gov. Brian Kemp’s executive order as a “reckless mandate."

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“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,” Sessions wrote in the statement.

“Tybee City Council and I are devastated by the sudden directives and do not support his decisions. The health of our residents, staff and visitors are being put at risk and we will pursue legal avenues to overturn his reckless mandate.”

Sessions added there is no beach access to Tybee and parking lots will remain closed. The mayor also said the island isn’t staffed properly and has no lifeguards in place.

Sessions posted a video update about Tybee Island’s resources.

Update on Tybee

Posted by Shirley Sessions on Friday, April 3, 2020

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Kemp’s order that started Friday supersedes all local ordinances that that conflict with the state order.

So if a Georgia city or county took emergency action or used an emergency declaration to close their beach, they reopened.

The order also allows state parks to remain open. But like the beaches, they are open with social distancing rules in place and no gatherings of more than 10 people.

The Georgia Department of Public Safety and Georgia Department of Natural Resources will be patrolling for violators.

The governor’s office sent the following statements to Channel 2 Action News about the beaches’ current conditions.

St. Simon’s: There are roughly 300 people on the beaches at St. Simon’s Island. The Governor and Sheriff Neil Jump are in regular communication, discussing conditions on the beach and compliance. The Sheriff tells us there are no issues to report. The Department of Public Safety and Department of Natural Resources report no issues. According to patrols, beach visitors are mostly – if not all – locals enjoying the water close to their property. They are walking along and maintaining social distancing from others.

Tybee Island: There are roughly 150 people on the beaches at Tybee Island. The Department of Public Safety and Department of Natural Resources are patrolling the area and roads leading to the beaches to ensure compliance with the executive order. There are no issues to report at this time. I have spoken directly with the Mayor and explained how we stand ready to provide resources to ensure compliance with the order. Throughout this process, Governor Kemp has been guided by the recommendations of Dr. Kathleen Toomey, public health officials in the private and public sectors, and emergency management officials to ensure the health and well-being of Georgians across our state. We continue to monitor the situation and deploy resources as needed.

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