During Friday’s virtual meeting Downs told the commission, “I understand what you’re saying. I am a perfectionist myself. But I don’t think we want to get too focused on specific sentences and words. The goal is to send a stronger message to provide a cover for retail [customers and employees].
“Now if we’re talking about taking people’s liberty away,” he added, “if we’re talking about putting them in jail, then yes, we would need more clarity in the language.”
While the goal, Downs said, is “voluntary compliance,” the ordinance states officers can issue a warning and subsequently issue penalties of “not more than $25 on the first offense, not more than $50 on the second offense, and not more than $100 on the third offense and any subsequent offenses.”
Downs doesn’t believe Decatur’s or the other new local laws are in conflict with Governor Brian Kemp’s June 29 statewide executive order that “strongly encourages” but doesn’t mandate face coverings.
He cites Kemp’s recent statewide “Wear a Mask Tour,” flying to seven Georgia cities to publically emphasize facial coverings.
He also points out that the Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court has deemed in-person judicial proceedings require court employees and the public to wear masks.
Upon reconvening June 15 the Georgia General Assembly required mask wearing by all House members and staff while on Capitol grounds. Further, the Georgia Board of Regents has announced the University System require all faculty, staff, students, and visitors to wear an appropriate face covering while inside campus facilities/buildings.
“We may not quite agree on the precise language,” Downs told the AJC, “but in the end we all want people wearing masks at appropriate times.”
Decatur’s ordinance becomes effective 8 a.m. Saturday (July 11) through Aug. 17, or “until it is extended, rescinded, or amended by ordinance of the City Commission.”