CAIRO — A local requirement for individuals to wear masks while inside public buildings is “obviously in conflict” with an executive order issued this week by Governor Brian Kemp, said Cairo city attorney Thomas Lehman.

An executive order issued by Kemp on Wednesday suspended regulations created by local governments across the state that require citizens to wear masks while in public spaces. Lehman said Friday that he believes the language of the order can be interpreted as strikingdown guidelines Cairo implemented earlier this month that require visitors and staff inside city buildings to wear masks at all times.

“It’s a public building, so it’s obviously in conflict with the governor’s order,” Lehman said.

With local officials now unable to require masks, City Manager Chris Addleton said the city will now move to “highly recommend” that residents wear face coverings while inside public buildings. Free masks will be available at doors to city-owned buildings.

The measures were designed to help protect city employees from contracting the novel coronavirus amid a sharp upturn in cases of the virus seen in Grady County since late June. Data from the Southwest Georgia Public Health District shows at least 34 new cases of the virus were identified within the past seven days, bringing the county’s total number of cases up to 270 and marking an increase of more than 100 new cases of the virus in just four weeks.

“We’re trying to protect our employees so we can operate a city,” Addleton said.

At least 45 city employees were tested for the virus last week, and city officials had not been notified of any positive results from the Grady County Health Department as of Friday morning. Two city employees are known to have tested positive for the virus in the past.

No formal action by the city council was taken to establish the policy, which was implemented by Addleton on July 6.

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