Officials battle over mask mandate, causing confusion in Georgia

Published: Jul. 16, 2020 at 6:18 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The divide between the state and county is as clear as the discord in you see walking down the streets of Augusta: many with masks and just as many without.

Augusta’s mask requirement will still be upheld, according to city leaders, despite Gov. Brian Kemp’s order opposing it.

“We will just have to deal with the fallout,” said Dennis Williams, District 2 commissioner.

But will it lead to legal issues?

“Oh, yeah, possibly. Folks love to sue,” Williams said.

Kemp specifically ordered all county and city masks or face covering rules to be suspended, citing local orders cannot be more restrictive than the state’s.

To which, Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis responding in a statement: “an apolitical health crisis has become political,” and that “a mask requirement in the least we can do because we are headed in the wrong direction.”

“It’s really a difficult conversation kind of balancing out our individual liberties compared to what the medical community says,” Brandon Garrett, District 8 Commissioner, said.

The Richmond County Sheriff’s office is not currently enforcing the $25 to $100 fine as a penalty. Instead, the immediate approach is educating on the benefits and simply reminding people to put a mask on.

Augusta leaders tell News 12 that their message to the governor is the city’s ordinance will not be rescinded.

“I think locally we need to follow the mandate that our local government put out,” Williams said.

“We as elected officials in those in a law enforcement community, and those in the business community, just continue to encourage others to just keep wearing masks that we were able to keep our economy open,” Garrett said.

Opposers calling masks mandates government over-reach. Health experts call it essential. Political officials calling the lack of consensus within the state, even within the city: chaos.

Requirement versus recommendation is what this all boils down to, but the medical community argues, it should instead boil down to harming versus helping.

“This is one of the ways of may be preventing a person catching the virus so why not wear the mask,” Williams said.

According to the city, the mask mandate is still in effect and will be until August 8 at midnight.

When asking our viewers on Facebook, 70 percent said they are wearing a mask and following the local mandate.

Copyright 2020 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.

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