SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The Savannah City Council is showing support for Mayor Van Johnson’s mask mandate he put in place last week. The council officially approved the order at Thursday’s meeting.
Wearing a mask has become the new normal during the pandemic but whether or not the government can force you to wear one has become a topic of discussion for some council members.
In a unanimous vote, the Savannah City Council voted to approve Mayor Van Johnson’s emergency order making it mandatory for anyone ages 10 and up within city limits to wear a mask. If you don’t follow the order it could land you with a fine up to $500.
“We would not penalize anybody without giving them the opportunity first to be able to comply,” Mayor Van Johnson said.
The mayor did make some adjustments to clarify parts of the order saying that tour companies that operate trolley’s and walking tours need to require people to wear face coverings and if you’re exercising indoors you do not need to wear a mask. News 3 also learned that businesses could face fines up to $1,000 if not following the order.
“We have literally given out hundreds of masks at this point,” Johnson said.
The fine wouldn’t be criminal but only a civil infraction. If you get a ticket you will have to face a judge and they will determine how much the fine will be.
“If this does hit court you are not only looking at the fine but you’re also looking at court fees,” Post 1, At-Large Chair of Council, Kesha Gibson-Carter said.
Aldermen also raised concerns about how this order would infringe on one’s constitutional rights but according to the mayor and city attorney this is completely legal.
Alderman Nick Palumbo supports the resolution bringing up a Supreme Court decision from 115 years ago where in the midst of a small-pox outbreak local authorities could mandate vaccination or give a fine for refusal.
“It said upon the principles of self defense of necessity that communities have a right to protect themselves against epidemics and disease which threatens the safety of all of our community members,” District 4 Vice-Chair of Council, Nick Palumbo said.
“So I don’t think its a constitutional right I think we have the responsibility of public safety,” Johnson said.
To remind you to wear a mask electronic signs will be put up throughout the city.