SAVANNAH, Ga. (NewsNation/WSAV) – Gov. Brian Kemp issued a new executive order on Saturday giving local governments the ability to require face coverings on their own property.
Existing restrictions for gatherings, sheltering in place, and businesses were renewed in the new order. Local school districts will still have full authority on how they reopen for the new year.
In statement released from the governor’s office, Kemp said the state “cannot grow complacent” given the positivity rate of COVID-19 is on the decline.
“This order also protects Georgia businesses from government overreach by restricting the application and enforcement of local masking requirements to public property. While I support local control, it must be properly balanced with property rights and personal freedoms,” said in a statement released Saturday.
Until now, Kemp has only “strongly encouraged” the use of masks or face coverings and included language in his order to prevent local governments from issuing mandates more or less restrictive.
Still, cities including Savannah and Atlanta have defied the order and enforced local restrictions.
This comes after the White House Coronavirus Task Force recently “strongly” recommended Georgia adopt a statewide mask mandate, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
Candice Broce, communications director for Kemp, said governments must meet specific health-related metrics to be allowed to require masks. “If they implement such a requirement, there are numerous exceptions and a limit on penalties,” she added.
Kemp’s current executive order was set to expire Saturday at 11:59 p.m. ET. The new order was released Saturday afternoon.