Decatur extends face-covering ordinance that still doesn’t include churches

Decatur's city commission, seated l-r Mayor Pro Tem Tony Powers and Mayor Patti Garrett, and standing l-r, Lesa Mayer, Kelly Walsh and George Dusenbury. Courtesy City of Decatur
Decatur's city commission, seated l-r Mayor Pro Tem Tony Powers and Mayor Patti Garrett, and standing l-r, Lesa Mayer, Kelly Walsh and George Dusenbury. Courtesy City of Decatur

Decatur has extended its ordinance requiring that face coverings be worn in public during the COVID-19 virus. The ordinance originally took effect July 20 and has been updated monthly ever since, typically timed with Governor Brian Kemp re-upping his statewide public health emergency.

The current extension lasts through Dec. 21, though monthly protractions will likely continue at least through winter.

“For us, the [monthly extensions are] a repeated civic education,” said Mayor Patti Garrett. “It’s a public statement, a monthly reminder to keep wearing a mask on a regular basis.”

The ordinance calls for wearing a mask in all public places (other than your own home) like a business, store, or restaurant (other than when eating and drinking) and in the common areas of office buildings.

The mask requirement, however, doesn’t apply to religious gatherings. Over the past few months, including the most recent (Nov. 16) city commission meeting, Commissioners Lesa Mayer and George Dusenbury have indicated their support for adding churches to the list.

“We survey churches on a regular basis,” Garrett said, “and we’re not aware of [any violation]. Almost all churches are meeting virtually although we do know of a few holding services outdoors with distancing. Some are having limited indoor activities in their church, but all are requiring masks.”

Excluding places of worship is consistent with most local and state mask ordinances nationwide, but there have been exceptions, notably with Colorado.

Earlier this year that state set guidelines for places of worship, including the wearing of face coverings indoors by all worshippers. But two Denver pastors filed a lawsuit with a federal judge subsequently ruling last month that the restrictions violate the state’s Constitution. Therefore Colorado churches don’t have to limit how many worshippers enter a building and they aren’t required to wear face coverings.

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