Chatham County Commissioners discuss mask mandate possibility

Chatham County Commissioners discuss mask mandate possibility

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Making masks mandatory County-wide, that’s what Chatham County Commissioners discussed during Friday’s County Commission meeting.

Right now the only municipality in the County with that order in place is Savannah.

Chatham County Manager Lee Smith said during Friday’s meeting some uniformity County-wide would help clear up confusion, but ultimately it’ll be up to Commissioners to decide what the mandate would look like and when it would go into effect.

Commission Chairman Al Scott says until Governor Brian Kemp’s order expires this Sunday, he doesn’t believe any mask mandate in effect before then is enforceable.

“So if we were going to do a declaration in the County, my thoughts or recommendation would be to wait until the Governor’s order expires on the 12th. And then if we were going to do one County-wide, I think it ought to be uniform,” said Chairman Scott.

And others on Commission think a resolution to encourage masks would be a better route.

Dean Kicklighter, Commissioner over Chatham County’s 7th District said, “If we wanted to go the route to try to, rather than request, force. I would suggest that we put something in place that’s actually doable. Because I’m telling you, outside, I walked up here today, I couldn’t wear a mask. It already felt like it was 100 degrees and muggy, and there was no way on Earth I could wear a mask while walking through those streets to get here.”

Coastal Health District Director Dr. Lawton Davis was asked to weigh in on whether or not mandating masks are the answer to stem the growing numbers of COVID-19 cases in the County.

Dr. Davis said, “I think that it has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that when people wear face coverings when they’re out in public and/or around other people, and particularly when they are in indoor rooms and gatherings, the wearing of masks has a very beneficial effect.”

The county attorney did give his opinion saying in part that technically, even though they can’t be inconsistent with the Governor’s order, Chairman Scott could invoke emergency powers under the Emergency Management Act to declare an emergency. Under that emergency he could take steps to minimize health impacts, which could include a mask mandate.

The attorney recommended getting cooperation from the rest of the municipalities in the a County, and leaving Savannah’s ordinance as is.

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