DUNWOODY, Ga. — The Dunwoody City Council joined a handful of Georgia cities July 13, passing an ordinance mandating the wearing of protective masks in public within the city.
But the order died before it went into effect.
The mandate, which was scheduled to begin July 16 and run for one month, required all persons within the city limits to wear a mask or a cloth face covering over the nose and mouth when inside a commercial location or other building or space open to the public. It also required masks when in an outdoor public space where it is not feasible to maintain social distancing of not less than 6 feet from another person not from the same household.
The vote was 5-2, with council members John Heneghanand Jim Riticher opposed. Both stated their frustrations with state leadership, but they said they were bound to follow Gov. Brian Kemp’s own call not to exceed provisions of his statewide order.
For more than a week, Kemp had said local jurisdictions cannot enforce harsher mandates than he has outlined in his statewide executive order, and local laws doing so are unenforceable.
Kemp made that point again on July 15 — a day before Dunwoody’s ordinance was to take effect — by updating his own executive order to include language specifically suspending any local orders that mandate the wearing of masks.
Savannah and Atlanta already enacted their own mask mandates earlier this month, and other cities had prepared to follow suit.
In anticipation of Kemp’s action, however, the Dunwoody City Council passed a resolution at the same meeting that would substitute the term “require” with “strongly recommend,” if the governor called out cities with mandate orders.
In arguing for the original mask mandate, Dunwoody Mayor Lynn Deutsch said she has followed the numbers since the pandemic began, and she has seen the toll it has taken on people and on the healthcare community.
“This is the one thing we can do to protect the healthcare community,” Deutsch said.
During discussion of whether a mandate was legal at the time, the council majority argued that the city would simply be acting in “furtherance of the governor’s order,” which advised citizens to follow guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dunwoody City Attorney Bill Riley said the city could sustain its ordinance if challenged by asking whether the governor can restrict what kind of furtherance a local government can employ to a governor’s order.
That argument apparently became moot with the Kemp’s later announcement.
Dunwoody’s ordinance includes exemptions from its “strong recommendation” to wear masks.
Exemptions apply to:
- Any person younger than 10 years of age
- Any person with a medical condition or disability that prevents the wearing of a mask or face covering
- Persons while consuming food or drink, or while in a personal motor vehicle
- Any person obtaining a service that requires temporary removal of the mask or face covering for security surveillance, screening, or a need for specific access to the face, such as while visiting a bank or while obtaining a personal care service involving the face or head, but only for the minimal amount of time necessary for the service to be performed
- Persons while in a swimming pool or while voting, assisting a voter, serving as a poll watcher, or actively administering an election
- People participating in a physical activity, provided the active person at all times maintains a minimum of 6 feet from other people not from there same household
- Those within any place of worship
Following the governor’s new order, Mayor Deutsch said the council was prepared for the change when it enacted the original ordinance. That’s why the council passed the subsequent resolution, she said.