Cities restore mask mandates as COVID rises; will Augusta be next?

Published: Jul. 26, 2021 at 11:13 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Experts say the delta variant is driving new infections. Cities like Savannah are concerned and leaders are bringing back mask mandates to try to slow the spread. And that begs the question: Could that happen in Augusta?

We asked Augusta’s mayor and an infectious disease expert about that possibility. We also reached out to Gov. Brian Kemp’s office to see if local governments even have the authority to do this. A spokesperson says the governor has no current executive order addressing mask mandates.

Dr. Rodger MacArthur with the Medical College of Georgia says low vaccination rates are fueling the surge. In the last week cases in Georgia have nearly doubled.

“Younger people are filling up the hospitals, they’re the ones that are getting infected these days, in large part because most of them haven’t been vaccinated,” said MacArthur.

According to the Department of Public Health about 40 percent of all new cases in Georgia are from people younger than 30. And the DPH says only about one out of every three people in Columbia and Richmond counties are fully vaccinated.

“Our vaccination rates in Richmond County are not where they need to be and for that matter, they’re not a whole lot better in Columbia County,” MacArthur said.

With low vaccination rates plus cases rising locally, could we see mask mandates come back here?

We reached out to Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis Jr. In a statement, he says in part: “As COVID cases increase, I continue to monitor the data and communicate with our local and state health experts to determine if the need to return to masks exists.”

MacArthur doesn’t think we need a mandate at this point.

“I don’t think we’ll see a lot of new restrictions, but I can pretty much guarantee there’s going to be continued efforts at educating the public about the many good reasons to get vaccinated,” said MacArthur.

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