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'Unmask Georgia Students Act' passes Georgia General Assembly

The bill is now headed to Gov. Kemp's desk.

ATLANTA — Senate Bill 514 has passed the Georgia House, advancing the legislation out of the state's general assembly and to Gov. Brain Kemp's desk. The bill would allow parents to exclude their children from mask mandates in public schools.

"I look forward to signing this measure into law." Gov. Kemp said over social media on Friday, announcing the news.

The bill was expected to see swift action in the legislature after being introduced by floor leader Senator Clint Dixon and Gov. Kemp back in February. While the state leader has previously voiced approval of local control, Gov. Kemp doubled down to reporters at the bill's announcement.

"As you know, I’ve been a local control governor," Kemp previously told reporters.

"This is something I’ve been very patient on but it’s gone on way too long," Kemp said, as he criticized school systems that required masks in classrooms per CDC guidelines.

“Parents are the best decision-makers when it comes to the health and education of their children,” Dixon said previously to the Senate Education and Youth Committee. “This legislation ensures that those rights are not infringed upon by misguided policies.”

Opponents have voiced their issues with the bill.

“We can’t be playing with this,” Sen. Donzella James, an Atlanta Democrat who was hospitalized for months with COVID-19 last year, previously told 11Alive. “This thing is still killing people.”

“It will take away the little safety that we do have to protect ourselves and all the people around us,” James said of the opt-out provision.

Georgia's COVID-19 positivity rate is currently at 1.5%, well below the World Health Organization's recommended 5% rate. A total 483 people are hospitalized for COVID-19 in Georgia as of Friday, according to the Georgia Medical Facility Patient Census. Of the 30,916 recorded deaths statewide since the start of the pandemic, the Georgia Department of Health reported 61 deaths to the virus on Friday.

   

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