By a 4-1 vote, Statesboro City Council enacted an ordinance Tuesday evening requiring that masks or face shields be worn in public places “at all times where other physical distancing measure may be difficult to maintain from non-cohabiting persons.”
It took effect immediately. But the mask mandate includes a number of exceptions, among them that children under 10 years old are exempt, polling places are exempt and people with “bona fide” religious objections to wearing a mask are exempt. Masks are not required in personal vehicles, on residential property, when a person is alone in an enclosed space or only with other members of the same household, or outdoors and maintaining social distancing from others.
A mask is not required to be worn while eating or drinking or if a person has a medical condition that prevents it.
Otherwise, for the most part, the ordinance specifies that anyone found without a mask in a public place – defined to include businesses that welcome the public – “shall be first given a warning and an opportunity to put on a facial covering or mask, leave the entity, or comply with one of the exceptions ….”
If someone refuses to comply, they can be assessed a civil fine of up to $25 for a first offense and a fine of up to $50 for a second or subsequent offense. Statesboro’s police and code enforcement officers are empowered to enforce the ordinance.
Businesses and other properties and their owners, managers and staff are exempted from being penalized for customers’ noncompliance. But customers could be cited unless a business posts signs stating that it does not consent to enforcement of the mask mandate on its property.
In that case, the business or other “entity” is required to post signs at all public entrances stating, in one-inch Arial type: “This location does not consent to enforcement of any local face covering requirement upon this property.”
The city’s law references Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s Aug. 15 executive order offering guidelines for local mask mandates.
Under that order, mask mandates remain enforceable only as long as newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 exceed 100 per 100,000 population for the previous 14 days, noted Statesboro City Attorney Cain Smith. In drafting the city ordinance, he linked this requirement to Bulloch County’s rate, since there isn’t a separate reported rate for Statesboro.
Bulloch’s case rate
Bulloch County’s 14-day new case rate was 357 per 100,000 people as of Tuesday’s daily COVID-19 update on the Georgia Department of Public Health website.
District 1 Councilman Phil Boyum, who made the motion to approve the mask mandate and was seconded by District 5 Councilwoman Shari Barr, requested an added clause stating that the ordinance will otherwise remain in effect for 90 days or until further council action. This was incorporated into the final version.
District 4 Councilman John Riggs cast the one “nay” vote after requesting that the mandate be withheld two weeks until the next regular meeting, Sept. 1, for consideration and input.
Riggs wore a bandana over his nose and mouth, while the other three council members present in person wore masks and District 3 Councilwoman Venus Mack attended virtually by teleconference connection.
The Bulloch County Board of Commissioners also discussed a mask mandate Tuesday but delayed consideration until its Sept. 1 meeting. Of course, the city’s ordinance applies only within Statesboro’s city limits.