Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, signed an executive order on May 28 that restricts the state's public school districts from mandating masks.
“As hospitalizations, cases, deaths, and percent positive tests all continue to decline—and with vaccinations on the rise—Georgians deserve to fully return to normal,” Kemp said in a statement. “With safe and effective vaccines widely available and the public well-aware of all COVID-19 mitigation measures, mandates from state and local governments are no longer needed,” Kemp said.
“The time for mandates is over. Our numbers have plummeted," he said. "We’re not going to have a mask mandate for our kids.”
Kemp's decision drew backlash from some Democrats and school officials.
“This is nothing more than a political stunt at a time when Georgians deserve real leadership to help us emerge from the pandemic.”
Throughout the pandemic, Kemp rejected calls to force Georgia schools to impose statewide mask requirements, preferring to let local officials decide. Dozens of Georgia school districts have rolled back mask mandates since January, after initially requiring them.
Kemp’s order also eliminates remaining COVID-19 restrictions for restaurants, bars, conventions, live performance venues, and child-care facilities.
Local governments in counties reaching the threshold requirement of 100 or more positive cases per 100,000 people over the previous 14 days may impose a “Local Option Face Covering Requirement,” although they aren't required to do so, according to the order.
However, local governments that do choose to implement local masking requirements may not levy fines greater than $50 for violations, and they must first warn non-compliant individuals before issuing any citations.
At the same time, local governments may continue to impose mask mandates on property owned or leased by them, regardless of whether the threshold requirement is met. The only exception is that no individual may be denied access to a polling location for failure to wear a mask.