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The DeKalb County Commission will keep its mask ordinance, with amendments

COVID-19 Decatur Metro ATL

The DeKalb County Commission will keep its mask ordinance, with amendments

FILE PHOTO USED FOR ILLUSTRATION PURPOSES: A long time street corner vendor in unincorporated DeKalb County shifted his focus from selling t-shirts to masks, gloves and sanitizer during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Dean Hesse.
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Decatur, GA — At a July 21 meeting, the DeKalb County Commission voted to amend its mask ordinance but isn’t doing away with it, despite an executive order from Gov. Brian Kemp barring local governments from adopting mask requirements.

DeKalb County’s move followed a similar action taken by the Decatur City Commission at its July 20 meeting.

Mask requirements are intended to fight the spread of COVID-19.

As COVID-19 cases continue to increase at a rapid pace, Gov. Brian Kemp has clashed with cities like Decatur that have adopted mask ordinances. Kemp is encouraging mask use while simultaneously saying cities can’t require it by law.

On July 16, Gov. Brian Kemp’s office filed a lawsuit against the city of Atlanta over the city’s mask requirement, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. The lawsuit was filed a day after Kemp issued an executive order that prohibited cities from requiring people to wear face masks to curb the spread of the virus.

DeKalb County passed its mask ordinance on July 14. It was authored by Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson.

The County Commission amended the ordinance further on July 21.

“The amended ordinance, which CEO [Michael] Thurmond asserts is ‘consistent’ with Gov. Brian Kemp’s executive order, requires DeKalb residents over age eight ‘to utilize a face covering or mask which covers the nose and mouth when in any public place,'” a press release from the county says.

First-time violators will be given a written warning. People who violate the ordinance a second time will be required to take a virtual COVID-19 prevention class. People who fail to attend the class will be fined $250.

Here is the full announcement from DeKalb County:

DECATUR, Ga. –Today, the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners approved CEO Michael Thurmond’s amendments to the mask ordinance commissioners passed July 14. The original mask ordinance was authored by Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson.

“I would like to recognize and thank Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson for her advocacy and leadership in encouraging DeKalb residents to wear masks to protect the community,” CEO Thurmond said.

The amended ordinance, which CEO Thurmond asserts is “consistent” with Gov. Brian Kemp’s executive order, requires DeKalb residents over age eight “to utilize a face covering or mask which covers the nose and mouth when in any public place.”

“We must do everything within our authority to stop the spread of this deadly virus,” CEO Thurmond said. “According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, wearing face coverings or masks, maintaining social distance and washing our hands frequently are the best ways to protect ourselves and the general public.”

The ordinance emphasizes the importance of community education and outreach. A written warning will be given for first violations. Those who violate the ordinance a second time will be required to attend a virtual or in-person COVID-19 prevention class “to understand the public health ramifications of this crisis and appropriate public health responses to mitigate the spread of this disease.”

Anyone who fails to attend the class will be fined $250.

Additionally, the DeKalb mask ordinance contains a unique “conscientious objector” clause that exempts any person from penalty who swears in a written affidavit to be presented in court, that they will not wear a mask for health-related, religious or ethical reasons.

The county will also distribute 20,000 masks to local brick-and-mortar small businesses which agree to implement a “No Mask, No Service” policy.

 

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