VALDOSTA — Valdosta has joined a growing list of cities in Georgia that are mandating masks in public places now that Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has given cities and counties formal permission to enact such mandates.
However, the decision to mandate masks was split among city leaders. The Valdosta City Council voted 4-3 to approve the Local Option Face Covering Ordinance requiring face coverings in public places and government buildings during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.
Council members Vivian Miller Cody, Sandra Tooley, Sonny Vickers and Eric Howard voted to approve the ordinance, while council members Tim Carroll, Andy Gibbs and Ben Norton voted against the measure.
The mandate went into effect Thursday and expires along with Gov. Kemp’s executive order allowing municipalities to mandate face covering ordinances at 11:59 p.m. Aug. 31 unless it is extended or rescinded.
The ordinance requires residents and visitors to wear a mask when in a public place where other physical distancing measures may be difficult to maintain.. The Ordinance also specifies that businesses that do not consent with the mask ordinance within their facilities post a “clearly legible sign in one-inch Arial font at all public entrances” stating, “This location does not require the use of masks or facial coverings upon this property.”
There are exemptions to the City’s Ordinance. Any person who is unable to safely wear a mask or face covering due to age, underlying health condition, or who is unable to remove the mask or face covering without the assistance of others is exempt from this Ordinance.
The Ordinance will not apply to the following:
- In personal vehicles or on residential property;
- When a person is alone in enclosed spaces or only with other household members;
- When the individual has a religious objection to wearing a facial covering or mask;
- While drinking or eating;
- When a licensed healthcare provider has determined that wearing a facial covering or mask causes or aggravates a health condition for the individual or when such person has a medical reason for not wearing a facial covering or mask;
- When wearing a facial covering or mask would prevent the receipt of personal services or performing work in the course of employment;
- When complying with the directions of a law enforcement officer or for the purposes of verifying a person’s identity, such as when purchasing alcohol, tobacco, or prescription drugs or when engaging in a financial transaction;
- Children under the age of ten (10) years;
- At any polling place and no individual shall be denied ingress or egress to or from a polling place for failure to wear a facial covering or mask;
- When outdoors and maintaining social distancing from anyone other than individuals with whom they cohabitate.
The mask mandate will be enforced by city police officers, code enforcement officers, and/or other authorized law enforcement officials. Education will be the first step in enforcement.
City officials say they will work to educate any violators of the ordinance before pursuing further action. Those not in compliance will be asked to provide proof of a mask, and if they do not, will receive a warning on the first offense. Additional failure to comply with the mandate can result in a $50 citation.