Athens-Clarke County votes to mandate masks

Athens-Clarke County becomes another municipality in Georgia to mandate masks of all residents. The commissioners of the unified government voted to pass the measure Tuesday evening.

The measure comes as Georgia surpassed the 100,000 mark of confirmed coronavirus cases in the state since the start of the pandemic, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

Earlier in the day, Gov. Brian Kemp spoke with the Georgia Municipal Association urging local officials to join in his push for voluntary mask-wearing in public, even while acknowledging that some local officials want him to go further.

“We don’t need a mandate to have Georgians do the right thing, but we do need to build strong, public support,” Kemp told mayors and county commissioners on a conference call Tuesday, according to a statement released by the Republican’s office. “Let’s work together — with a unified voice — to remind Georgians what’s effective and important in this fight against COVID-19.”

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Kemp is urging voluntary compliance but has said he won’t order masks to be worn statewide. The city of Savannah has ordered all people inside businesses to wear masks, even though the move appears to overstep Kemp’s earlier orders that cities and counties can’t make rules that go beyond state rules. Athens-Clarke County, Kemp’s hometown, is expected to consider a mandatory mask order Tuesday.

Instead of new rules, Kemp on Tuesday urged local officials to do more to enforce current restrictions on how businesses, citizens and others are supposed to operate.

“I know some want us to roll back the reopening and others want us to keep moving forward,” Kemp said. “But here’s the question: are folks following the current executive order? If not, let’s get to work.”

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The Associated Press contributed to this report