The Dunwoody City Council approved a citywide mask-wearing mandate and an agreement to receive $5.6 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds during a special called meeting on Aug. 19.
The mask mandate is a revival of a previous mandate the council passed in July, which the city stopped enforcing once Gov. Brian Kemp claimed local mask mandates were illegal because they exceeded state restrictions. The new ordinance is in line with Kemp’s Aug. 15 emergency order that allows mask mandates with specific limitations.
The council unanimously approved the mask mandate with two amendments raised by Councilmember John Heneghan, which he said makes the ordinance more in line with Kemp’s order.
Kemp’s order allows cities and counties to have a mask mandate in public and in consenting businesses under certain conditions with limitations on penalties. The order extends through Aug. 31.
Heneghan added two exceptions to the ordinance — masks do not have to be worn while doing athletic activity when a person can social-distance or when a professional organization or other public health entity deems an activity unsafe with a mask.
Some other exceptions include while eating and drinking; for children under 10 years old; while complying with law enforcement; or for those with underlying health conditions.
The mask mandate is only active when the county has 100 or more positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people, according to the ordinance and Kemp’s order.
A person violating the ordinance would first be given a warning then a possible fine of $25 on the first offense and no more than $50 for subsequent offenses, according to the ordinance. The ordinance will be enforced by police or code enforcement officers, according to the ordinance.
Businesses can choose whether they consent to the mask mandate on their property. Those that do not want to enforce the ordinance must place a sign in their windows stating they are exempt from the city mask mandate, according to the ordinance. Business owners can not be penalized for customers who do not comply with the ordinance.
Those businesses that do consent to the ordinance do not need a sign, according to city spokesperson Jennifer Boettcher. The city will enforce the mandate in businesses that consent.
“The goal of this ordinance is awareness and understanding,” said Boettcher. “Businesses or customers can call law enforcement if the issue can’t be resolved otherwise.”
“I’m in favor of this because it’s much lighter than what we passed previously,” Councilmember Jim Riticher said.
The previous mask mandate, passed on July 13, had stricter requirements with higher penalties than Kemp has now allowed. Dunwoody stopped enforcing it after Kemp claimed mask mandates were illegal contradictions of his previous emergency orders because they exceeded the state’s restrictions, which only “strongly encouraged” mask-wearing.
City attorney Bill Riley said the new mask ordinance supersedes the previous ordinance.
COVID-19 relief funds
The council unanimously approved an intergovernmental agreement between the city and DeKalb County to receive a portion of the county’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funds. The county has allotted $32.6 million of its CARES Act funds for its 12 cities.
The agreement was supposed to be passed during an Aug. 10 council meeting, but there were legal tweaks that needed to be worked out between the city and the county.
“Rather than wait for every city to be paying attention to this and get on board, I think it’s essential for us to just get it done,” Mayor Lynn Deutsch said.
Each city has a separate intergovernmental agreement with the county. Once the county signs the agreement, it has 10 days to get the funds to the city, Deutsch said. All of the funds must be allocated or spent by Dec. 30, according to the agreement.
CARES Act funds do not replace other city revenue streams and must comply with the federal guidelines for where the money can be spent, which mostly has to do with COVID-19 relief efforts.
“I’m confident we can allocate all of this before the deadline,” assistant city manager Jay Vinicki said.
The city plans to use $1 million of its CARES Act funds for economic grant relief programs;
about $633,000 is set for facility cleaning, ventilation upgrades and personal protective equipment; about $500,000 is set for hazard pay and COVID-related expenses; about $616,000 is set for vulnerable population grants such as food and daily cost assistance; and about $2.85 million for contingency.
Vinicki said the large contingency portion is reserved for staff to amend the budget as new federal guidance comes out regarding the allocation of the funds. Deutsch said there will be later dates for the council to “flesh out this budget.”