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Decatur City Commission lets face mask ordinance expire

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Decatur City Commission lets face mask ordinance expire

Downtown Decatur on August 25, 2020. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Decatur, GA — The Decatur City Commission, at its June 21 regular meeting, took no action on the city’s face mask ordinance, thus letting the ordinance expire as of midnight on Monday.

The city will, however, continue to require that patrons wear a mask inside city buildings, which is consistent with the city’s reopening plan, City Manager Andrea Arnold said. That decision is based on the metrics the city uses for its reopening plan.

The city is tracking several COVID-related data points and trends and following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The vaccination rate also influences the city’s ability to reopen safely, according to the city’s website.

“It’s up to the people who live in this community. If we can get up to 70% vaccination rate, we’ll drop the masks,” Arnold said. “We’ll drop that requirement right away, regardless really of the other metrics for inside of our buildings.”

On May 17, the City Commission extended the ordinance through June 21. The ordinance had been in effect since July 2020.

“The purpose of that decision was to allow sufficient time for all eligible people to receive the vaccine,” Arnold said. “You may recall, just a few days in advance of that May 17 meeting the opportunity was given to children ages 12 to 15 to start receiving the vaccine. Again, with the rationale of that decision being by June 21 everyone in that age population, 12 and up, would have sufficient, ample time to be fully vaccinated.”

Based on the widespread availability of the vaccine, Arnold’s recommendation was that the City Commission take no action on the face mask ordinance and to let it expire.

Arnold added that business owners and other owners of private property can still make their own rules and require people to wear a mask inside their establishment.

“This will allow a business, if they want to continue requiring masks within their stores or if they want to change the rule to say if you’re vaccinated you don’t need to wear your mask. That authority now lies with that property owner or the business owner,” Arnold said.

The city did reach out to local business owners to ask where they are on the issue and about 80% of the business owners said they were ready for the ordinance to expire, Arnold said.

“Just because the ordinance is going away, that does not mean it cannot be required inside someone’s establishment or in an institution, for example a school institution, business, church, place of worship. They all have the authority to make their own rules,” she added.

The City Commission will begin meeting in person in July but the audience will remain virtual. The public is expected to be able to attend City Commission meetings in person in August.

Mayor Patti Garrett said the main reason for not opening up to the public next month is to give the city an opportunity to get the dual technology working to allow people to participate in-person and virtually.

The City Commission only meets on time in July and the meeting will allow the city to work through the new technology which will allow for hybrid meetings going forward, Arnold said.

“Of course, as we go forward the public will be invited and able to participate in person, but also I think that we’ve provided great opportunities for people who otherwise may not have even participated or been able to participate in public meetings and we want to continue to provide this opportunity for people to participate via Zoom or a Zoom-like platform,” she added.

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