The cover of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution yesterday featured two big reports on the pandemic in Georgia. On the right side of the page was a discouraging article about the sharp increase in Covid-19 infections among children in the state as schools reopen. Several hundred Georgia kids were hospitalized just last week.
This news appeared alongside a competing article, alerting readers to a very different kind of development. The headline read, "Kemp avoids strong steps to stem COVID-19 spread."
As Georgia sees some of its highest numbers to date of infections, hospitalizations and fatalities, the Journal-Constitution reported that Republican Gov. Brian Kemp is among the GOP governors sticking to a passive approach to the pandemic.
When [Kemp] went on national television to talk about the new school year, he spoke of masks as tools of government overreach, accusing the CDC of doublespeak. We don't need mandates to know what to do, he said on Fox and Friends. His refrain there and at press conferences: We need to trust people to do the right thing. In the days following, Kemp told Georgians to follow scientific guidance. But he also said it was up to every individual whether to wear masks or get vaccinated.
The report added that it was just a month ago, as cases in Georgia grew, when the Republican governor "signed an order allowing businesses to ignore any local COVID restrictions."
Asked if he's doing enough to address the public health crisis, Kemp immediately responded, "If you have any good ideas on how we can further slow the spread, I'd be open to it."
If only he meant it.
Nearly 25 years ago, there was an episode of "The Simpsons" in which viewers saw Ned Flanders' parents struggling to deal with Ned's temperament issues when he was a child. They went to a therapist and said, "You've got to help us, doc. We've tried nothing and we're all out of ideas."
Of course, it'd be an unfair overstatement to say the Georgia governor has tried literally nothing, but the line from the "The Simpsons" nevertheless rings true for a reason.
There are plenty of constructive steps Kemp could take that would likely help make a significant difference. He could create vaccine requirements. He could mandate mask protections in schools. He could rescind his recent order and direct businesses to honor local Covid-19 restrictions. As the Journal-Constitution's article added, Kemp could "offer incentives to younger people to get vaccinated and vastly expand mobile clinics."
The governor could also barnstorm the state, touting the importance of vaccines and pleading with Georgians to do the right thing in order to protect themselves, their families and their communities.
But Kemp isn't doing any of these things. When he said he's open to "any good ideas on how we can further slow the spread," what he probably meant is that he's open to good ideas that he considers politically and ideologically palatable.