Gov. Brian Kemp's ban comes as Georgia is seeing a spike of coronavirus cases, like many other states in the South.
Public health experts say masks are one of the most effective tools for stopping the spread of the coronavirus — which has spiraled out of control in a large swath of the United States.
But Georgia's GOP Gov. Brian Kemp has banned cities and counties from issuing mask mandates, claiming such orders are "a bridge too far," the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported.
Republicans had been reluctant since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to order the use of masks in public.
Yet a number of mask-skeptical GOP leaders have reversed course in recent days, as cases of the coronavirus have skyrocketed.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced a statewide face mask requirement on Wednesday, after resisting one for weeks.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a mask mandate — after previously banning them — on July 2.
And Mississippi's GOP Gov.Tate Reeves on Monday begged residents of his state to wear masks, as the state began to run out of space to take care of coronavirus patients in its hospitals.
Some national GOP leaders, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), have also been urging the use of face masks — which some Republican voters have resisted doing.
"We must have no stigma, none, about wearing masks when we leave our homes and come near other people," McConnell said on June 30. "Wearing simple face coverings is not about protecting ourselves, it is about protecting everyone we encounter."
Local Georgia leaders are up in arms about Kemp's ban on mask orders.
Athens Mayor Kelly Girtz said in an email on Thursday morning that it "defies reason to both suggest that businesses need to open for our economic health, but refuse to offer the regulatory tools that will allow them to stay open and thrive."
Georgia is one of a number of states seeing a spike in coronavirus cases. The seven-day average is now at 3,087 cases — up from 787 one month ago, according to data from the New York Times.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.