Kemp Bridgestone

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020, at Bridgestone Golf's headquarters in Covington.

(The Center Square) – Gov. Brian Kemp and other Georgia officials have slammed President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate, while others are calling for more penalties for vaccine resistance on the state level.

Biden released a six-pronged plan Thursday to respond to the delta variant of COVID-19. It calls for shoring up COVID-19 vaccination numbers and testing, mask and vaccine mandates, mobilizing booster shots and antibody treatments, and providing more aid to businesses.

Biden’s plan directs the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to require all businesses with 100 or more employees to ensure their staff is fully vaccinated or require unvaccinated workers to test a weekly for COVID-19.

The mandate would apply to more than 80 million private sector workers nationwide. OSHA also would create a rule requiring the same private sector employers to provide paid-time off for vaccinations and recovery.

Kemp and other Republicans were quick to voice their opposition to the mandates in Biden’s plan.

“I will pursue every legal option available to the state of Georgia to stop this blatantly unlawful overreach by the Biden administration,” Kemp tweeted. Thursday.

The plan also reinforces COVID-19 vaccine and mask mandates on federal workers and calls for Medicaid and Medicare providers to require the shots for their workers. It recommends large entertainment venues require patrons be vaccinated or show a negative test for entry. Biden also is calling on states to adopt COVID-19 mandates for school workers.

Kemp announced a plan last month to provide incentives to vaccinated state workers. His proposal gives members of the State Health Plan and their dependents $150 gift cards or $450 in health care credits once they are fully vaccinated. The plan could cost the state $48 million to $146 million, depending on how much each worker receives.

State Rep. Teri Anulewicz, D-Smyrna, is pushing for a State Health Plan surcharge for unvaccinated workers.

“If you are on [the State Health Plan] and you use tobacco, you pay a monthly surcharge. This is responsible, as taxpayers subsidize this plan,” Anulewicz said in a tweet Friday. “It is also responsible because this monthly surcharge indeed helps cut the rate of tobacco use, which means a healthier workforce and healthier families in [Georgia].”   

Anulewicz said the State Health Plan is one of the largest employee health insurance programs in state.

“To this end, [Kemp] is a businessman and surely he understands that he has an obligation to taxpayers to keep SHBP costs low," Anulewicz tweeted. "I urge him to implement a similar surcharge for unvaxxed state employees on the [State Health Plan].

Kemp said 325,000 State Health Plan members are eligible for the vaccination incentives, including those who previously were vaccinated against the virus.

As of Friday, 95,726 doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered per 100,000 Georgians.

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., told WTOC-TV he fears the mandates will increase vaccine hesitancy and workforce shortages.

“Those people who have not gotten vaccinated so far, a lot of them are just going to quit,” Carter said. “A lot of them are going to work. We’re going to end up with a shortage of work or else as it is.”

Staff Reporter

Nyamekye Daniel has been a journalist for five years. She was the managing editor for the South Florida Media Network and a staff writer for The Miami Times. Daniel's work has also appeared in the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and The New York Times.