On Monday, July 27, Macon-Bibb Mayor Robert Reichert vetoed the emergency ordinance requiring the use of face coverings in public. Below is the full text of the letter the Mayor sent to the Commission explaining the veto and reiterating the importance of people taking all preventative measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, including wearing masks in public.
To all Macon-Bibb County Commissioners:
After receipt of numerous emails advocating for both sides of this legislation, and deliberate and protracted thought and reflection, it is with deep respect and commitment that I hereby VETO the Emergency Ordinance calling for masks to be mandated in public spaces, as passed by the Commission on July 21 st .
I truly believe we should do everything within our power to convince individuals to follow all preventative measures to slow the spread of COVID-19, BUT I believe we have gone as far as we can, legally, to get people to wear their masks, practice socially distancing, avoiding large groups, and more. The Governor’s Executive Order sets out the state-wide requirements for reopening the economy, and specifically prohibits local governments from doing more or less than set forth in his Order, even declaring local Orders inconsistent with his Executive Order to be “unenforceable”. I respect the Governor’s authority.
The Governor’s Executive Order deputizes all Sheriffs across the state to help enforce his Executive Order. Therefore, a mandate to wear masks in public is not enforceable by our Bibb County Sheriff’s Office, and for those cities that have enacted similar ordinances, we read in the AJC today that no citations have been issued and the mandates are merely a statement. ( https://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-police-departments-report-zero-citations-for-face-mask-violations/ANLOOBZL5ZBSBOGNGAU7WUA2TQ/ )
As a local government, we have made the statement that people should wear a mask when in public and when around other people. The Governor continues to recommend that all individuals wear masks as appropriate. We must make sure people are aware of that, and I applaud you as a Commission for all agreeing that this is a serious issue and people should follow all the CDC guidelines. I have signed the Ordinance that you adopted to appropriate $700,000 for advertisements to inform, advocate, and implore individuals to follow ALL of the CDC Protocol measures. Also, I personally request that all citizens going into public spaces, where they are unable to socially distance themselves from members of the general public, to wear a mask, not so much for themselves, but to avoid the transmission to others by unknowingly contagious individuals.
I also want to remind private property owners that they are already empowered to make and enforce reasonable conditions for entry into their private property, and we have seen responsible grocery and retail establishments require masks of all customers seeking admittance. We cannot mandate the same for all public spaces.
I am again asking private businesses and organizations to take all appropriate measures, that will reduce the spread of COVID-19. I hope and pray that we can move beyond this debate about an unenforceable law and get to where the only thing we say is, “Wearing a mask, and following ALL CDC protocol is important to your health and the health of our community.” That’s the message that we need to send people, not an unenforceable mandate to do the same.
Robert A.B. Reichert