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Opinion: Ga.’s fighting local mask mandates is not approach we need

Georgia's State Capitol.
Georgia's State Capitol.

Why?

That’s the question Georgians concerned about their own health and lives – and those of their neighbors, families and others – should ask of Gov. Brian Kemp, given his latest order neutering local government requirements that people wear face masks during this pandemic.

It’s hard to see this latest move -- and a related lawsuit filed Thursday against the city of Atlanta -- as anything other than undermining both public health and the local-government-is-best beliefs that the Gold Dome’s conservative leaders used to tirelessly preach.

Kemp’s latest executive order explicitly forbids local or county governments from enacting measures that require public mask usage. Instead, the state is encouraging – rather than mandating – Georgians to wear masks in public.

Again, why?

The governor has called such a requirement "a bridge too far," and his office has said local mandates are unenforceable.

So, for now, this “y’all-please-cooperate” approach seems as far as Kemp is willing to go to in the desperate effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, which has killed more than 3,000 Georgians to date.

Could it be that the governor is trying to mollify so-called “anti-maskers” – those who somehow see government conspiracies and Bill of Rights violations in commonsense efforts to slow the pandemic?

Otherwise, the move forbidding other governments from acting in their own citizens’ best interests makes no sense.

All this while the red curve of new virus cases in Georgia and the U.S. continues to steeply rise. At a time when some states are acting far more assertively than Georgia to try and limit COVID-19′s spread. And despite advice from doctors and other infection control specialists from corner medical offices on up to Washington, D.C. They’re passionately urging use of face coverings, frequent hand-washing and social distancing to help defeat this virus.

Having been battered by the effects of COVID-19 on both consumers and workers, the business community, too, seems fully engaged in the anti-virus fight. Large retailers are increasingly doing what Kemp and other holdouts will not – requiring that customers wear face coverings.

Is it really a “bridge too far” to require that every Georgian take a minimal precaution when they are out in public breathing or coughing on others?

We don’t think so.

The Editorial Board.