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Mayor Girtz: No Renewed Mask Mandate—for Now

Mariah Parker and Kelly Girtz at protest in front of Confederate Memorial
Mayor Kelly Girtz speaks at a May 2020 protest. Credit: Adria Carpenter/file

After Savannah reinstituted its mask mandate Monday, Athens Mayor Kelly Girtz said that Athens-Clarke County will not immediately follow suit.

Along with Savannah, ACC was one of the first cities in Georgia to pass a mask ordinance. ACC stopped enforcing it in May, when COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people dropped below 100 over a 14-day period.

“Our mask mandate was tied to having more than 100 new cases per 100,000 in population in a two-week window,” Girtz said. “Fortunately, we have been under that threshold for more than two months, though our numbers have tripled in the last month from the low point late this spring.

“I will be making a continued push for residents, including new-to-campus students, to get vaccinated,” he said. “It’s quick, easy and can save your life or that of those around you.”

As of Monday, cases per 100,000 in the past two weeks stood at 108. However, Girtz said passing that threshold doesn’t automatically trigger the mask mandate again. But the county commission will likely revisit the issue, he said.

Savannah Mayor Van Johnson reinstituted that city’s mask mandate on Monday, citing the fast-spreading Delta variant, low vaccination rates, large gatherings and residents letting their guard down. Also Monday, the Clarke County School District announced that everyone will be required to wear a mask inside schools regardless of vaccination status.