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Georgia governor outlaws cities' mask orders

by The Associated Press | July 16, 2020 at 4:02 a.m.
The patient arrival area at a temporary hospital is viewed at the Georgia World Congress Center on Thursday, April 16, 2020, in Atlanta. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp took part in a tour of the 200-bed facility, constructed quickly to deal with COVID-19 patients in the lower levels of the center which normally plays host to large conventions and sporting events. (AP Photo/Ron Harris, Pool)

ATLANTA -- Georgia's Gov. Brian Kemp is explicitly banning Georgia's cities and counties from ordering people to wear masks in public places. He voided orders on Wednesday that at least 15 local governments across the state had adopted even though Kemp had earlier said cities and counties had no power to order masks.

The Republican governor has instead been trying to encourage voluntary mask wearing, including telling fans that reduced infections from mask-wearing would make college football season possible.

Kemp's move is likely to infuriate officials in communities that had acted, including Atlanta, Augusta, Savannah, Rome and the governor's hometown of Athens-Clarke County. Overall, mask orders by Wednesday were covering 1.4 million of Georgia's more than 10 million residents.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson was the first official to defy Kemp and order masks, and had said police would start writing $500 citations to businesses that didn't enforce the law.

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"It is officially official. Governor Kemp does not give a d * * * about us," Johnson wrote Wednesday night on Twitter.

Kemp's new order also bans local governments from requiring masks on public property, which void requirements that some governments have imposed for citizens to wear masks inside city and county buildings.

Local officials and Democrats had argued cities and counties had the power to move ahead because Kemp hadn't specifically banned mask orders. His orders barred local governments from enacting any coronavirus restrictions beyond his orders and he called the local mask mandates "legally unenforceable."

FILE - In this Friday, June 26, 2020, file photo, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is greeted as he visits the House Chambers on Sine Die, day 40, of the legislative session in Atlanta. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, File)
FILE - In this Friday, June 26, 2020, file photo, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is greeted as he visits the House Chambers on Sine Die, day 40, of the legislative session in Atlanta. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, File)
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks at the Georgia Cancer Center in Augusta, Ga., Thursday, July 2, 2020, as part of his "Wear a Mask" Fly-Around Tour to promote the wearing of masks as COVID numbers rise in Georgia. (Michael Holahan/The Augusta Chronicle via AP)
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks at the Georgia Cancer Center in Augusta, Ga., Thursday, July 2, 2020, as part of his "Wear a Mask" Fly-Around Tour to promote the wearing of masks as COVID numbers rise in Georgia. (Michael Holahan/The Augusta Chronicle via AP)
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