The Brookhaven City Council unanimously approved a new mask-wearing mandate on Aug. 25 that follows Gov. Brian Kemp’s emergency order more closely than its original mask mandate that passed last month.
Kemp’s Aug. 15 emergency order allows localities to enact mask mandates in public and in consenting businesses with limitations on penalties. The city’s ordinance would remain in effect until the council revises or repeals it.
The ordinance requires masks in public places where people cannot social distance. Businesses cannot be forced to have or enforce the mask mandate, which is in line with Kemp’s order. Any business that does not want to enforce the mandate must put a sign in its window and email the Brookhaven Police Department, according to the ordinance.
Police or code enforcement officers can enforce the mandate in public or in consenting businesses. An individual who violates the mandate will first receive a warning, then a $25 fine for a first offense and $50 fines for any other offenses, according to the ordinance.
“Every effort shall be made to bring an individual into voluntary compliance with the terms of this Ordinance prior to issuance of any notice of violation, including providing complimentary masks, explaining the importance of wearing facial conversing during this pandemic, and issuing verbal and written warnings,” the ordinance reads.
Kemp’s order states that mask mandates can only be in effect if the COVID-19 infection rate in a county is 100 cases per 100,000 people within the last 14 days, as calculated by the Georgia Department of Health. DeKalb County exceeds that infection rate, according to the city ordinance.
Businesses cannot be held accountable for customers or individuals not wearing masks, according to the ordinance.
Some exceptions to the mandate include while eating or drinking, when complying with law enforcement, for children under 10 years old and when on residential property.
Mayor John Ernst signed an executive order on July 9 requiring face masks for anyone entering or working in commercial establishments that had stricter penalties than Kemp now allows and did not exempt businesses.
After the city and others in the state passed its ordinance, Kemp claimed local mask ordinances were illegal contradictions of his emergency orders due to exceeding state restrictions, which have only “strongly encouraged” people to wear masks. The city stopped enforcing its previous mandate, which came with a possible $500 penalty, but kept it in effect.