Gov. Brian Kemp has extended the state’s pandemic emergency rules through Aug. 15.

The order, issued July 31, maintains various rules and guidelines, including that people practice social distancing and that people at higher risk of COVID-19 complications continue to shelter in place.

The order continues to prohibit gatherings of more than 50 people if a distance of at least 6 feet between all participants cannot be maintained. And its specific rules for sanitation and distancing in specific businesses and institutes, like restaurants and schools, remain in effect.

On the controversial topic of mask-wearing, the order continues to “strongly encourage,” but not require, masks anywhere outside the home except when eating, drinking or exercising. The state is currently locked in a legal battle with the city of Atlanta on the issue of whether city and county governments can mandate mask-wearing in contradiction to state orders. Kemp’s order extending the emergency includes stronger language, similar to a lawsuit’s legal arguments, about the state’s ability to regulate public health, at one point citing the standard reference work Black’s Law Dictionary. It also notes the state’s ability to require such public health measures as vaccination, subject to authorization.

Kemp’s order also extends the general state of emergency, under which he can issue or expand further orders, through Sept. 10.

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John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.