Gwinnett declares new COVID emergency, mandates masks in county buildings

Nicole Love Hendrickson, running for Gwinnett Commissioner, speaks to attendees at the Get Out The Early Vote with Jon Ossoff, Rev. Raphael Warnock, Carolyn Bourdeaux, and the Biden Campaign at Shorty Howell Park in Duluth, Georgia, on Saturday, October 24, 2020. (Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
caption arrowCaption
Nicole Love Hendrickson, running for Gwinnett Commissioner, speaks to attendees at the Get Out The Early Vote with Jon Ossoff, Rev. Raphael Warnock, Carolyn Bourdeaux, and the Biden Campaign at Shorty Howell Park in Duluth, Georgia, on Saturday, October 24, 2020. (Rebecca Wright for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Rebecca Wright

Credit: Rebecca Wright

Gwinnett County Commission Chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson signed an emergency order that will require face masks or coverings effective Monday in all facilities the county owns or leases.

“As an employer, Gwinnett County has experienced a significant amount of employee absenteeism due to the spread of COVID-19 and its variants,” Hendrickson said in a news release. “Because we want to be proactive and keep essential services running without interruption to our residents, business owners and customers, we will follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Georgia Department of Public Health and take measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 for the safety of those who visit our facilities and work in them as well.”

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The county will provide face masks to people who can’t afford them.

Exceptions will be granted to people who need help to put on or remove masks, those who have bona fide religious objections to face coverings and those who have bona fide medical conditions that prevent them from wearing masks, according to the news release.

The order does not apply to private businesses, court facilities, school district buildings or city government buildings.

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The county will update its policy to include a mask requirement for employees.

“They are the people who keep the water flowing, respond to emergencies, ensure our roads are safe and provide other services essential to our community,” County Administrator Glenn Stephens said in the news release. “Chairwoman Hendrickson’s local emergency order and the County policy update to require masks provide our workforce with another layer of protection as they serve our residents, businesses and visitors.”

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The emergency order expires Jan. 26, at which time Hendrickson could re-evaluate based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Georgia Department of Public Health.

Almost 17,000 new COVID-19 cases were reported in Gwinnett County in the two weeks ending Wednesday, according to the state health department. Almost 39% of PCR tests administered in that time period came out positive, according to the state.