Savannah requires face masks

SAVANNAH — The city of Savannah has become the first city in Georgia to require face masks during the coronavirus pandemic, bucking a portion of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s order stating cities cannot impose harsher restrictions on residents than those imposed by the state.

Mayor Van R. Johnson, II, signed an emergency order Tuesday requiring the public to wear masks or face coverings within the City of Savannah.

“Frankly and honestly, I do not believe we have another choice,” Johnson said. “Our seven-day rolling average (of new cases) is 43, which is a new record, and our 14-day rolling average is 33, which is a new record. The numbers speak for themselves. These are not the records Savannah wants or needs to break. This necessitates a substantial paradigm shift and corresponding drastic action to keep Savannah safe during these very delicate times.”

According to the order:

All persons entering a commercial establishment in the City must wear a face covering or mask while inside the establishment. This does not apply to religious establishments. However, face coverings are highly recommended during religious activity.

All restaurants, retail stores, salons, grocery stores, and pharmacies in the City must require their employees to wear a face covering at all times while having face-to-face interaction with the public.

Any person who is unable to safely wear a face covering due to age, an underlying health condition or is unable to remove the face covering without the assistance of others is exempt from this order.

Face coverings are not required in the following circumstances:

  1. In personal vehicles;
  2. When a person is alone in enclosed spaces or only with other household members;
  3. During outdoor physical activity, provided the active person maintains a minimum of 6 feet from other people with whom they do not cohabitate at all times;
  4. While drinking, eating, or smoking;
  5. When wearing a face covering causes or aggravates a health condition;
  6. When wearing a face covering would prevent the receipt of personal services; and
  7. When a person is 10 years of age or younger.

A person who fails to comply with the order will be guilty of a civil infraction punishable by a fine of not more than $500.

“The point of this order is not to be punitive,” Johnson said. “If we see someone without a face covering, the first thing we will do is offer them one. If that person refuses the face covering, that’s a different issue entirely.”

The order goes into effect Wednesday, July 1, at 8 a.m. and will remain in effect until further notice. 

Chatham County currently has 1,140 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 177 hospitalizations and 37 deaths.

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