Tucker declines to make masks mandatory
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By Logan C. Ritchie, contributor
Tucker, GA — Tucker Mayor Frank Auman is promoting masks, but not mandates.
Tucker isn’t considering making masks mandatory for residents and visitors, but an increasing number of municipalities in Georgia are, including Avondale Estates, Decatur, and Doraville. The mask mandates are intended to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“You can’t expect to make good public policy without considering the public’s response to the policy you make,” Auman said in a video posted July 13 on the Mayor’s Blog, www.tuckerga.gov/mayor.
Auman said he doesn’t understand why mask-wearing has become a divisive issue.
“For reasons that are beyond me, mask-wearing has become a very politicized, polarizing subject,” Auman said. “We have already seen determined resistance by some to the very idea of wearing a mask, even without a law in place. There’s a small segment who think it’s their constitutional right to not wear a mask.”
But Auman sent a clear message to those who refuse: Wear a mask or risk death.
“One day, when it’s adjudicated by a court, those people may be found to be dead right, or they might just be found to be dead, or disabled, or having suffered the loss of a family member or loved one,” he said.
Auman said a law mandating masks moves the decision to do the right thing for yourself and others to one that involves law enforcement and a court system.
“I simply don’t think it’s wise to put people in a position of calling the police whenever they believe someone should be wearing a mask and they’re not,” he said, noting that 911 should not be used to report mask usage. “We don’t even have full compliance with the governor’s existing emergency orders, so why would we expect that anyone who is not already complying with mask guidance would suddenly change their behavior because we passed an ordinance?”
Instead, Auman plans to ramp up the investigation, inspection, and enforcement of emergency orders issued by Gov. Brian Kemp; distribute free, high-quality masks in Tucker; and run a campaign to encourage mask-wearing.
Auman said residents of Tucker will be embarrassed to be seen without a mask due to “a public information campaign to encourage mask use that will be like no other public information campaign you’ve seen in Tucker before.”
Councilmember Anne Lerner echoed his sentiment to use the city’s resources to educate citizens.
“While a handful of Georgia cities have enacted mask mandates, with the current state of emergency in place, those laws could be in question,” she said. “Based on my experiences … I’d prefer to use Tucker’s resources to continue to educate, provide free masks, and lobby the governor’s office to either mandate masks statewide or amend the state of emergency to allow local jurisdictions to do so legally.”
Outside of the city council, Lerner is a senior communications strategist at Jackson Spalding. She said helping regional and national companies across industries navigate issues with the pandemic, including a myriad of mask laws, gives her a broad perspective.
“The best approaches I’ve seen are state-wide mask mandates paired with education and free masks for those in under-served communities. That’s not to say all people are abiding by the state mandates as no law is followed 100 percent, and they continue to struggle with enforcement,” she said.
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