SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – As his first official act in office, the new chairman in Chatham County extended the local state of emergency requiring masks.

Chatham County Board of Commission Chairman Chester Ellis signed off on the countywide mandate on Monday. This is the eighth continuation of the order.

Unless a person is specifically exempted — a child age 5 or younger, for example — a mask or face covering properly covering the nose and mouth is required in public places. One must also be worn at any time a group gathers in numbers of 10 or more.

Public places include, but aren’t limited to, restaurants, retail stores, salons, grocery stores, pharmacies and government buildings.

The mandate also requires physical or social distancing and consistent washing or sanitizing of hands.

Anyone who violates the emergency order could face a misdemeanor, with a fine not exceeding $500. An establishment’s failure to require masks could result in the suspension of any business license or tax certificate.

The mandate will remain in effect until 11:59 p.m. on Feb. 3 unless modified or rescinded.

Over the last two weeks, Chatham County has averaged about 82 new cases per day. There are currently 150 patients across the area’s three hospitals — the highest hospitalizations have been since the summer.