SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Masks or face coverings will be required in Chatham County starting Saturday, though an extended order from the state could pose a problem for the local mandate.
On Friday, Chairman Al Scott issued a state of emergency for Chatham County making masks mandatory in public spaces, including commercial establishments, public places, government buildings — and any time people gather in groups of 10 or more.
The order is set to go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Aug. 1.
However, Gov. Brian Kemp’s extension of Georgia’s public state of emergency keeps certain COVID-19 guidelines in effect, including the suspension of any mandatory mask orders.
Kemp recommends the use of a face coverings but stops short of requiring them.
Meanwhile, there appears to be a discrepancy in the period Chatham County’s mandate will stand. While the county’s order states that the measure would last for 30 days, a release states the order will remain in effect until Wednesday, Sept. 30.
A spokesperson for the county said clarification would be sought in the coming days, adding, “it may be moot” with Kemp’s extension.
Should Chatham County move forward as planned despite the governor’s order, as the City of Savannah has done, the following would apply:
- Masks or face coverings must properly cover the nose and mouth
- All restaurants, retail stores, salons, grocery stores, pharmacies, and other establishments must require employees to wear masks or face coverings at all times when having face-to-face interactions with the public
- Masks or face coverings are also required in religious services and are to be self-regulated
- Physical/social distance of 6 feet between persons is required to the extent that it is possible
- Everyone is to wash their hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer regularly
In late March, Chatham County ranked 23rd in COVID-19 cases in Georgia. But with a recent increase in infection rates and a spike in positive cases, Chatham County now ranks 6th.
“This increase along with the rise in hospitalizations locally calls for us to take action,” said Scott. “I have spoken with all the mayors and the director of the Coastal Health District and we are in agreement masks or face coverings need to be worn to help protect the residents and visitors of our County. Even with the majority of our residents and visitors wearing masks, it could take eight weeks to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
The order also outlines the circumstances in which a person does not have to wear a mask or face covering:
- When wearing a mask or face covering causes or aggravates health conditions
- When wearing a mask or face covering would prevent receiving personal services
- When a person is five years old or younger
- While engaged in an organized sports activity sponsored by a school, the County or a municipality within Chatham County and the sponsored sports activity is conducted in a manner that meets or exceeds the standard set forth by the school, county or city league requirements
Commercial establishments that have continuous and repeated infractions will be declared a public nuisance and the business may be shut down through the duration of this order. Violation of this order by any person is a misdemeanor and punishable by a fine not to exceed $500. Each day an establishment is in violation or fails to comply with this order will be considered a separate violation.
Under the order, municipalities can impose a more restrictive order as it relates to COVID-19.