Mayor issues executive order requiring face masks to combat COVID-19 spread

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has issued a promised executive order requiring all persons to immediately begin wearing a mask or a cloth face covering over their nose and mouth in the City of Atlanta and Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to combat the spread of COVID-19.

The order, which also prohibits gatherings of more than 10 persons on city property, defies executive orders issued by Gov. Brian Kemp that only encourages the wearing of masks. Savannah, Athens, East Point, and Doraville have already issued their own orders requiring masks.

“We will continue to take active measures to help slow the spread of COVID-19 infections in Atlanta,” Bottoms said in a statement. “Public health experts overwhelmingly agree that wearing a face covering helps slow the spread of this sometimes deadly virus.”

The mayor’s order also extends to individuals inside commercial entities or other buildings or spaces open to the public, outdoor public spaces, and wherever it is not feasible to maintain appropriate social distancing from another person not in the same household.

The requirements above will not apply to the following:

  • any person younger than ten (10) years of age;
  • any person with a medical condition or disability that prevents the wearing of a
  • mask or face covering;
  • any person while the person is consuming food or drink, or is smoking;
  • any person while the person is 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 to the extent necessary for the temporary removal;
  • any person while the person is in a swimming pool;
  • any person who is voting, assisting a voter, serving as a poll watcher, or actively administering an election; and
  • any person while the person is speaking for broadcast or to an audience.

This order does not impede the operation of any businesses, establishments, corporations, non-profit corporations, and organizations as provided in the governor’s June executive order.

The city plans to provide face coverings to the general public through funding under the CARES Act. The face coverings will be available at the airport, homeless partners’ facilities and shelters, and food pick up locations. Atlanta Fire and Rescue will also work with community partners on the distribution of face coverings to Atlanta residents.

View the entire executive order online here.

Bottoms told MSNBC on Wednesday morning that she planned to follow the lead of Savannah and other municipalities in defying Kemp’s order.  “Atlanta is going to defy it today,” Bottoms said on the Morning Joe program. “The State of Georgia has been irresponsible in how it opened back up for business.”

The mayor said she had requested the latitude from Kemp to require face masks in Atlanta, since Fulton County has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the state. The governor refused.

“Coronavirus is affecting black and brown communities and with higher death rates,” Bottoms said. “We’ll never be able to reopen our schools and our economy if we don’t take some responsibility for what we can do as leaders.”

Bottoms disclosed that she and some members of her family have tested positive for COVID-19. The mayor, who described her symptoms as feeling like season allergies, said she was concerned that it had taken eight days and two tests to get actual results.

Bottoms held a press conference on July 6 in the wakes of the shooting of 8-year-old Secoriea Turner and various meetings with city officials and staff.

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