A 70-year-old law aimed at exposing the Ku Klux Klan has been suspended to allow people to wear masks during the coronavirus pandemic.
Hiding one’s identity in public has been illegal in the US state of Georgia under a 1951 law targeting the white supremacist hate group.
But state governor Brian Kemp has temporarily suspended the legislation so people are free to cover their faces during the pandemic.
Mr Kemp said on Twitter: “I signed an order to allow Georgians to wear masks in public to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 – in accordance with CDC guidance – without fear of prosecution.”
The new order allows “wearing ‘a mask, hood, or device by which any portion of the face is so hidden, concealed, or covered as to conceal the identity of the wearer’ if that person is wearing such device for the purpose of complying with the guidance of any healthcare agency or to prevent the spread of COVID-19”.
The proposal had cross-party support in the state’s legislature.
Georgia has documented more than 14,900 confirmed coronavirus cases along with more than 550 deaths.
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In the US as a whole, more than 639,000 cases of the disease have been recorded and more than 30,000 people have died, according to data published by Johns Hopkins University which is tracking the outbreak.
State senator Nikema Williams, who this month tested positive for COVID-19, said: “People are using whatever they have at home, bandannas, scarves, to put across their faces. I don’t want that to be misconstrued.
“I don’t want anyone to put their health and safety on the line from wearing a mask because they don’t want to be profiled in a grocery store or they’re picking up medicine at a pharmacy.”