Kemp’s New Order: Mask mandates are OK, but only on public property

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp extended his executive order on COVID-19 Saturday and made some concessions to cities and county’s that want to issue mask mandates.

Under the new order, local mask mandates are allowed, but only on public property. The order would eliminate the restriction on local mask mandates while allowing businesses to choose whether or not to have mask mandates.

“This order also protects Georgia businesses from government overreach by restricting the application and enforcement of local masking requirements to public property,” Kemp said. “While I support local control, it must be properly balanced with property rights and personal freedoms.”

Local mask mandates can only be enacted by cities and counties that meet a threshold requirement of 100 coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents over the course of the previous 14 days.

Residents who have a medical condition that hinders wearing a mask, object to mask wearing for religious reasons or have difficulty wearing a mask are exempt from local masking requirements.

The order also prohibits cities and counties from fining businesses for customers not complying with mask orders, however individuals can be fined with the caveat that the local government explains the benefits of mask use and offers a mask to the violator prior to issuing a fine. Fines are also capped at $50. Polling locations are also exempt from mask requirements.

Medically fragile residents are still under shelter-in-place orders until August 31. The new order also still mandates social distancing and encourages all Georgians to wear masks.

As of Saturday, Georgia had 235,168 confirmed cases of coronavirus, 4,669 deaths and 22,028 hospitalizations. According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, the 7-day average for new cases has been declining since August 11.

“In Georgia, our statewide case numbers have dropped 22% over the last two weeks, and daily hospitalizations have decreased by 7% in the last seven days,” Kemp said. “We are on average testing over 31,000 Georgians daily at 180 SPOCs while maintaining a low rate of transmission. The positivity rate is on the decline, and the mortality rate continues to fall.”

The governor is reminding Georgians that while the numbers are encouraging, the virus is still active “While encouraged by the data, we cannot grow complacent,” Kemp said.

Despite the positive indicators, the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force still lists Georgia as in the red zone for COVID-19 and recommends a more aggressive approach than what is in Kemp’s current executive order.

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