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Georgia county's coronavirus mask rule includes 'conscientious objector' clause

Written by on July 21, 2020

DeKalb County joins the growing list of municipalities in Georgia defying the governor’s executive order by issuing mask mandates.

County commissioners passed an amended ordinance Tuesday morning requiring face coverings to fight the spread of COVID-19.

The amended ordinance, which CEO Thurmond asserts is “consistent” with Gov. Brian Kemp’s executive order, requires DeKalb residents over age eight “to utilize a face covering or mask which covers the nose and mouth when in any public place.”

“We must do everything within our authority to stop the spread of this deadly virus,” CEO Thurmond said. “According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, wearing face coverings or masks, maintaining social distance and washing our hands frequently are the best ways to protect ourselves and the general public.”

According to the county,  written warning will be given for first violations. Those who violate the ordinance a second time will be required to attend a virtual or in-person COVID-19 prevention class “to understand the public health ramifications of this crisis and appropriate public health responses to mitigate the spread of this disease.”

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Anyone who fails to attend the class will be fined $250.

The DeKalb mask ordinance also contains a unique “conscientious objector” clause that exempts any person from penalty who swears in a written affidavit to be presented in court, that they will not wear a mask for health-related, religious or ethical reasons.

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The county says it will also distribute 20,000 masks to local brick-and-mortar small businesses which agree to implement a “No Mask, No Service” policy.

Gov. Brian Kemp issued an executive order last week that has language suspending local mandates. Despite the order, many local municipalities have pledged to stand by their policies and have asserted they know what is best when it comes to fighting the coronavirus in their respective communities.

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