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Decatur City Commission to consider repealing face mask ordinance during special called meeting

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Decatur City Commission to consider repealing face mask ordinance during special called meeting

A sign in downtown Decatur on August 25, 2020. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Decatur, GA — The Decatur City Commission will meet on Wednesday, March 2, at 7 p.m. for a special called meeting. The meeting will be held in person at Decatur City Hall, 509 N. McDonough Street, as well as Zoom.

The city commission may vote to repeal the city’s face mask ordinance.

To access the meeting, follow these instructions: 

To view the meeting agenda, click here.

This meeting will be held in-person. Members of the public wishing to participate during either the “Public Comment” or “Requests and Petitions” portions of the meeting may attend the meeting in one of two ways:

1. Attend in-person by coming to Decatur City Hall, 509 N. McDonough St. A temperature check and wearing of a face covering are required for entry into the building.

2. Register in advance at https://zoom.us/j/95226820696. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. You may also participate by phone by calling (929) 205-6099 and entering the meeting ID (The 11-digit number shown in the Zoom registration link.)

NOTE – This meeting will utilize virtual meeting technology. We cannot guarantee it will operate as planned. If your participation must be a matter of public record, attend the meeting in person or email your comments to City Manager Andrea Arnold at [email protected] by 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 2, 2022.

During the meeting, the city commission will consider approving an intergovernmental agreement with the city’s Public Facilities Authority related to issuing refunding bonds for the South Housing Village at Legacy Park. The board will also consider an intergovernmental agreement with DHA to issue housing authority revenue bonds.

Additionally, on the agenda, the city commission will consider repealing the city’s face mask ordinance. The board adopted the ordinance first in July 2020, and it has been in place with a brief interruption since then.

At the Feb. 22 city commission meeting, City Manager Andrea Arnold requested extending the mask ordinance until March 21, but several commissioners expressed reservations about continuing it.

The ordinance requires residents and visitors to wear face masks while in any business, store or other place where goods and services are sold. The requirement does not apply to places of worship or polling places.

Employees of establishments in the city are also required to wear a mask. Individuals who are in outdoor public spaces are required to wear a mask when they cannot socially distance.

Businesses in the city must post a clearly visible sign near the front entrance notifying patrons of the face mask ordinance and a potential civil penalty. However, business owners can opt out and not consent to enforcement of the ordinance on their property.

Establishments that opt out have to post a sign informing customers they do not consent to enforcement of the ordinance.

Individuals who don’t comply with the ordinance can face a civil penalty of up to $25 on the first offense, and up to $50 on the second offense and any subsequent offenses, according to the ordinance.

In a memo dated Feb. 28, Arnold proposes letting the current ordinance expire at midnight tonight. On Feb. 25, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced new guidelines for assessing the community risk of COVID-19 to help communities apply mitigation strategies, including face mask mandates.

“The CDC guidelines shift emphasis to the impact on local hospital systems by measuring 1) new Covid-related hospital admissions over the previous week, 2) percentage of hospital beds occupied by Covid patients and 3) new Covid cases per 100,000 people over the previous week,” Arnold wrote in the memo. “Using this criteria, DeKalb County falls into the ‘low’ community risk level.”

At the low level, the CDC does not recommend face coverings and emphasizes promoting vaccinations, improving ventilation in indoors spaces and ensuring access to testing.

“In light of the CDC guidelines, it is recommended that the current face covering ordinance be allowed to expire with the understanding that City staff will continue to monitor community risk and assess the need for any changes to the community’s pandemic restrictions,” the memo states.

Most of the city of Decatur is in the 30030 zip code. Cases have increased slightly from Feb. 22 to Feb. 27. On Feb. 22, 3,773 cases were reported and on Feb. 27, 3,792 cases were reported within the zip code according to the DeKalb County Board of Health. Although cases recorded in a period of 14 days decreased.

For the period between Jan. 25 through Feb. 7, the area saw 134 cases and in the two weeks between Feb. 8-21, 54 cases were reported. Cases declined by about 60%.

As of March 1, 58% of DeKalb County residents are fully vaccinated, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

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