Kemp warns college football is ‘tall task’ if Georgians don't don masks

Wear a mask or risk no college football this year.

That’s the message Gov. Brian Kemp, a die-hard Georgia fan, delivered Wednesday as he launched a statewide “Wear A Mask” tour.

“If people, especially our young people, don’t start wearing a mask when they’re going out in public and our numbers keep rising, that’s going to be a tall task,” he said of the prospect of a college football season.

“But if we all hunker down right now, and dig in the next two or three weeks, we can get this turned in the right direction.”

Kemp embarked on his seven-city tour amid a troubling increase in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations around the state, with recent data showing a spike of cases of the disease among young adults in Georgia.

The governor has balked at requiring residents to wear masks, instead signing an order that says they are "strongly encouraged" to do so.

The city of Savannah became the first in Georgia to mandate the use of face coverings, with an order that took effect early Wednesday.

Georgia is among the Power 5 programs planning for a full college football season this year, though it’s uncertain if the stands will be full of students and fans.

College campuses are struggling with how to resume classes during the pandemic. University of Georgia, which plans to resume in-person classes in the fall, encourages but doesn't require students to wear masks. The school has reported about 150 cases of the disease since March.

Georgia set a record last week with more than 11,000 new cases of the coronavirus. The state Department of Public Health on Wednesday reported nearly 3,000 new cases of the disease, shattering Sunday's single-day record of 2,225.

“People had let their guard down. We were moving in a very positive direction” Kemp said. “Summer hit, people were itching to get out after weeks and months of shutdown, not only in our state but across the country. And, quite honestly, people got lackadaisical.”

>>More: Savannah mask mandate takes effect, putting Kemp in tricky spot

>>More: Emory University experts to call for mandatory masks in Georgia 

>>More: In split with state, Savannah's mayor requires face masks