Sandy Springs and Smyrna are the first metro cities outside of Atlanta to require residents to wear masks in public to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The directives follow an executive order signed by Gov. Brian Kemp on Saturday that allows local governments to require that masks be worn in private businesses if the owner consents. In July, Kemp sued to stop the city of Atlanta and other Georgia cities from enforcing a mask mandate, but dropped the suit Thursday.
Kemp’s order limits fines to $50, and local authorities must issue a warning before citing violators. Fines can’t be imposed on private businesses and nonprofits or against people on residential properties.
The order of Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul, signed Tuesday, took effect immediately.
Smyrna Mayor Derek Norton signed a similar order the same day requiring face coverings in businesses and offices where owners want patrons to wear them. It also requires residents to wear masks on city property when they are unable to socially distance. Smyrna’s new face mask rules begin Friday.
Sandy Springs Communications Director Sharon Kraun said the city mask mandate is not meant to be punitive.
“It’s not meant to collect fines or arrest people,” she said. “It’s meant to encourage people to do what they need to do to protect people during COVID.”
Norton said he’s heard from people on both sides of the mask mandate debate, but said said “it’s been studied and proven” that masks prevent the transmission of the coronavirus.
“I think this is another step in trying to keep everyone safe and healthy,” he said.
Cobb County may soon require masks in county-owned buildings. County Manager Dr. Jackie McMorris is in talks with agency directors to see how it could be enforced. However, Commission Chairman Mike Boyce said a mandate affecting private businesses would require an amendment to its ordinance and three public hearings. He said he would solicit feedback from his fellow commissioners to see how they feel about such a move.
Marietta leaders approved a resolution last month requiring masks for anyone inside its buildings. Mayor Steve “Thunder” Tumlin said city leaders have “chosen a lower key approach and always stand ready to address any balanced remedy when necessary.”
Both Acworth and Powder Springs require masks or face coverings in their buildings.
Alpharetta City Council will discuss a mask mandate during a Monday meeting, Assistant City Administrator James Drinkard said.
Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC
Credit: Family contributed photo