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Macon mayor vetoes commission’s emergency mask mandate, cites AJC report

COVID-19 reinfection is unlikely, experts say

Macon Mayor Robert Reichert has vetoed an emergency ordinance passed by the City Commission last week that would require masks in public settings. The commission approved the mandate 7-2.

In a letter to the commission, as reported by WMAZ, Reichert said he agreed with Gov. Brian Kemp that such ordinances are unenforceable.

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“I am again asking private businesses and organizations to take all appropriate measures, that will reduce the spread of COVID-19,” Reichert wrote. “I hope and pray that we can move beyond this debate about an unenforceable law and get to where the only thing we say is, ‘Wearing a mask, and following ALL CDC protocol is important to your health and the health of our community.'

“That’s the message that we need to send people, not an unenforceable mandate to do the same.”

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Reichert cited an AJC report showing zero citations have been issued by local police departments in cities that are mandating masks.

On Monday morning, Georgia’s House and Senate Democratic caucuses and several labor unions filed court papers opposing Kemp’s lawsuit against Atlanta’s mask mandate and other restrictions focused on the coronavirus pandemic.

Kemp’s lawsuit targets Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ July 10 decision to revert to “phase one” guidelines that encouraged new limits on restaurants and other businesses to contain the disease, and it cast the city’s mask requirements as “void and unenforceable.” The governor says cities and counties are barred from enforcing rules that are more or less restrictive than his own.

Here is the full text of Reichert’s letter:

“To all Macon-Bibb County Commissioners:

“After receipt of numerous emails advocating for both sides of this legislation, and deliberate and protracted thought and reflection, it is with deep respect and commitment that I hereby VETO the Emergency Ordinance calling for masks to be mandated in public spaces, as passed by the Commission on July 21st.

“I truly believe we should do everything within our power to convince individuals to follow all preventative measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, BUT I believe we have gone as far as we can, legally, to get people to wear their masks, practice socially distancing, avoiding large groups, and more. The Governor’s Executive Order sets out the state-wide requirements for reopening the economy, and specifically prohibits local governments from doing more or less than set forth in his Order, even declaring local Orders inconsistent with his Executive Order to be “unenforceable”. I respect the Governor’s authority.

“The Governor’s Executive Order deputizes all Sheriffs across the state to help enforce his Executive Order. Therefore, a mandate to wear masks in public is not enforceable by our Bibb County Sheriff’s Office, and for those cities that have enacted similar ordinances, we read in the AJC today that no citations have been issued and the mandates are merely a statement.

“As a local government, we have made the statement that people should wear a mask when in public and when around other people. The Governor continues to recommend that all individuals wear masks as appropriate. We must make sure people are aware of that, and I applaud you as a Commission for all agreeing that this is a serious issue and people should follow all the CDC guidelines. I have signed the Ordinance that you adopted to appropriate $700,000 for advertisements to inform, advocate, and implore individuals to follow ALL of the CDC Protocol measures. Also, I personally request that all citizens going into public spaces, where they are unable to socially distance themselves from members of the general public, to wear a mask, not so much for themselves, but to avoid the transmission to others by unknowingly contagious individuals.

“I also want to remind private property owners that they are already empowered to make and enforce reasonable conditions for entry into their private property, and we have seen responsible grocery and retail establishments require masks of all customers seeking admittance. We cannot mandate the same for all public spaces.

“I am again asking private businesses and organizations to take all appropriate measures, that will reduce the spread of COVID-19. I hope and pray that we can move beyond this debate about an unenforceable law and get to where the only thing we say is, “Wearing a mask, and following ALL CDC protocol is important to your health and the health of our community.” That’s the message that we need to send people, not an unenforceable mandate to do the same.”