Challenging Mandatory Mask Ordinances in Dunwoody and DeKalb County
On July 13, the Dunwoody City Council passed an ordinance requiring citizens to wear masks in any indoor commercial or public space where it may be difficult to social distance. Right as the ordinance was set to begin, Governor Brian Kemp issued an explicit Executive Order to prohibit municipal mask enforcement measures across Georgia.
Now, DeKalb County is challenging that Executive Order by invoking its own mask ordinance. The measure will require citizens over 8 years old to wear a mask in public, with exceptions for those who successfully file an affidavit citing health, religious or ethical reasons.
The punishments for violators will include warnings, enrollment in a COVID-19 prevention course or a $250 fine. County employees will enforce the measure. However, no one will be arrested for a violation. This ordinance will remain in effect until it is repealed or modified.
State Executive Orders
County lawmakers state their ordinance is meant to go beyond Governor Brian Kemp’s Executive Orders which “strongly encourages” mask guidelines, but stops at jurisdictional enforcement.
Governor Kemp recently issued a new Executive Order to explicitly prohibit mask mandates within Georgia. The order states that municipalities cannot sign measures that are weaker or stronger than current state standards. As such, the state of Georgia is the sole authority for COVID-19 outbreak policy. Atlanta is already set to bring this jurisdiction issue to court with DeKalb County potentially joining them.
Like the revoked Dunwoody measure, an Executive Order may ultimately overrule this county ordinance.
This is an ongoing situation and mask ordinances may change in the coming days. Be sure to follow the news for the latest Georgia mask requirements.
If you get into legal trouble over mask violations, contact a knowledgeable Georgia criminal lawyer to help sort through your case. This is an evolving situation and the legal requirements may be confusing to understand.
In the meantime, be sure to carry a mask with you when you go out. Although you may not be required to wear a mask, it is a good idea to wear one to minimize the risk of spreading and/or contracting the virus. In a time of social distancing and mask-wearing, it is important to do your part and help stop the spread of COVID-19.