Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has voided certain cities’ mandatory mask requirement as COVID-19 cases in the state continue to rise, but still encourages residents to wear them.
On Wednesday, Kemp signed an executive order that said face masks are “strongly encouraged,” but not required and extended the state’s public health emergency.
The order cancels mask mandates put in place by cities. As of Thursday, there have been 118,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in the state and 3,030 deaths.
Cities in the state, like Atlanta, had passed their own mandatory mask guidelines despite the fact that Kemp didn’t want cities or counties to pass any mandates that did not coincide with the state’s guidelines. In Atlanta, not only do people who don’t wear masks face fines, but also six months in jail.
Local officials expressed their outrage about the new order on Wednesday.
Savannah Mayor Van Johnson, the first local official to create a mask mandate in the state, said the governor “doesn’t give a damn about us.”
“Every man and woman for himself/herself. Ignore the science and survive the best you can,” Johnson wrote. “In #Savannah, we will continue to keep the faith and follow the science. Masks will continue to be available!”
Residents in Savannah were required to wear a face mask beginning July 1 or face a $500 fine.
Earlier this month, Kemp defended his opinion on not requiring the public to wear masks.
"We don't need a mandate for people to do the right thing," Kemp told reporters.