Georgia Governor Extends COVID Restrictions But Hasn't Changed Policy on Mask Mandates

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed two executive orders on Friday to extend the public health state of emergency and COVID-19 guidelines until September 10, but has not changed his view on not enforcing a statewide mask mandate.

The coronavirus provisions are common restrictions placed in many states such as social distancing and sanitation. While face masks are not required, the order does encourage them in public places.

"It is further ordered: That all residents and visitors of the State of Georgia are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings while outside their homes or places of residence, except when eating, drinking, or exercising outdoors," the order stated.

Kemp Extends Public Health State of Emergency, Renews #COVID19 Restrictions

— Governor Brian P. Kemp (@GovKemp) August 1, 2020

In a statement, Kemp said local officials should make sure the guidelines are followed to reach the next phase of reopening for the state. "[W]e urge local officials to enforce the rules and restrictions detailed in these orders," he said. "When businesses, restaurants, venues, and citizens follow the guidelines carefully crafted by data, science, and the Georgia Department of Public Health, we will take our next measured step forward."

Kemp also called on Georgians to do their part in stopping coronavirus' spread. "While government plays an important role in fighting this pandemic, the people of our great state will ultimately be the ones who defeat this virus. We continue to encourage fellow Georgians to wear a mask, practice social distancing, wash their hands regularly, and follow public health guidance. Together, we will flatten the curve and stop the spread of COVID-19 in Georgia," he said.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Kemp signed an order in mid-July that said that cities and counties couldn't require residents to wear masks. The governor's office told the AJC on July 15 that requiring masks was "unenforceable."

On July 16, Kemp filed a lawsuit against Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms over her ordinance requiring residents to wear masks, Time reported. On Tuesday, Kemp dropped a request for an emergency hearing on the suit, opting for a later date, according to The Hill. A Kemp spokesperson told the outlet that it was part of having "productive, good faith negotiations" with local leaders.

"Now, Mayor Bottoms has taken several opportunities to publicly explain that the Phase One rollback is purely voluntary, and we appreciate this concession," the spokesperson also said.

The Georgia Department of Public Health reported that as of Friday the state has had over 186,000 COVID-19 cases and 3,752 deaths.

Contacts for Kemp did not respond to Newsweek's emailed request for comment in time for publication.

Brian Kemp
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp speaks to the media during a press conference at the Georgia State Capitol on April 27, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. Getty/Kevin C. Cox