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City launches 'Mask Up Valdosta' after Gov. Kemp bans mask mandates across Georgia

Posted at 5:48 PM, Jul 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-16 17:48:34-04

VALDOSTA, Ga. (WTXL) — Georgia Governor Brian Kemp says he wants everybody to wear masks, but they shouldn't be forced to do so.

The governor's order may have suspended mask mandates in 10 different Georgia cities, but in Lowndes County, he's receiving support.

Scott James Matheson, the mayor of Valdosta, is kicking off "Mask Up Valdosta," asking people to put on masks whenever they leave home.

Those in support agree with Gov. Kemp that the government shouldn't be telling people in private businesses what to do.

"To police people," said Charles Higgins, who runs Bistro Restaurant. "You going to arrest them for not wearing their mask?"

Higgins says he supports the idea of wearing a mask inside his restaurants, he just doesn't think it should a requirement.

He says throughout the pandemic people have been following CDC guidelines, without rules in place.

"Everybody's been doing their part pretty well," Higgins said. "I haven't seen anyone being belligerent."

They're on the same page at City Hall.

"It's not for me, it's for you," said Matheson. "To be crude, it knocks down the spittle. It keeps any of the moisture droplets from getting out and it's just a smart thing to do when you can't control that six-foot distance."

That's why the mayor, along with the city, is launching the "Mask Up Valdosta" campaign.

Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson launched a ‘Mask Up Valdosta’ campaign on Thursday encouraging Valdosta residents to...

Posted by Valdosta, A City Without Limits on Thursday, July 16, 2020

The campaign emphasizes social distancing and for people to wear face coverings, but shies away from requirements giving businesses the right to decide.

"Nobody on this planet should want a government to mandate to them," Matheson said. "We're going to strongly encourage. We're going to applaud any business that decides it's a mandate for coming in there because that is a private business and you don't want your government telling you what you can and can't do."

While Higgins won't require it he's hoping for a way through this pandemic.

"Just looking forward to a vaccine so that we can get back to normal," said Higgins.

The governor's order also included a slew of extensions on past restrictions like an emphasis on social distancing at restaurants, and extending the ban on gatherings of more than fifty people.