COVINGTON, Ga. — As the number of COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Newton County and across the state of Georgia, the Covington City Council voted 5-1 during Monday night’s regularly scheduled meeting to reinstate its mask order.
The resolution requires a mask or face covering be worn on city property if unable to social distance. The council first passed a mandate in early September but lifted it Oct. 5.
The reason for enforcing the mandate a second time was due to Newton County surpassing 300 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 in the last two weeks (322), according to the Georgia Department of Public Health as of Monday evening. There have been a total of 362 new cases within the last two weeks.
Councilwoman Fleeta Baggett opposed the action, but later voiced her reasoning behind voting down.
“I very much believe in wearing the mask, and I’m all for it,” she said. “I just don’t want to see us put in a position where we have an ordinance that is not being enforced because we don’t have anything to back it up with. That is my whole hold up with that. I do not have a problem with wearing a mask, and I do wear a mask when I’m out in public.”
City Manager Scott Andrews said he felt the move was necessary.
“With the sharp rise in COVID-19 cases, we feel this is a necessary step to protect our citizens,” Andrews said in a statement. “The frequency of new COVID-19 cases is alarming and wearing a face covering is a proven way of protecting yourself and others.”
The current mandate will terminate automatically if cases per 100,000 in a two week period falls below 100. Masks are not required to be medical grade, so long as they cover the nose and mouth. Bandanas, scarves and other similar fabrics are allowed.
Businesses within city limits may indicate that they require masks on their property by posting a notice at each entrance accessible to the public. Masks are not required while eating or drinking, or if socially distanced at least six feet apart.
The Covington Police Department will enforce the ordinance on all public property and any private property that chooses to require masks. Any individual who fails to be in compliance with this order is subject to a $50 fine.
The meeting was held via teleconference due to a person within the one of the city’s departments possibly being exposed to COVID-19, according to Andrews. The person’s identity was not disclosed.
Monday night’s meeting was the final regularly scheduled meeting of 2020.