The Forsyth Board of Alderman have passed a face covering ordinance.
At their meeting on July 20, aldermen voted and approved the first and second reading of Bill 526, which is a face covering ordinance due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The ordinance is scheduled to go into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, July 22 and will remain in effect until it is modified or rescinded.
During the public comment period of the meeting, a handful of city residents spoke both in favor of and against the ordinance. Forsyth Mayor Kelly Dougherty also read from a handful of emails from residents who wished to voice their support or opposition of the ordinance, but were unable to attend the meeting in person.
Forsyth Ward II Alderman Greg Dougherty said that by passing the face coverings ordinance and having residents team it up with the six-feet social distancing and staying at home when you don’t have to go out, the aldermen hope it will help to stop the increase in COVID-19 cases.
“It’s just something I think we have finally decided we’ve got to get done. Try it. Just try it. We’re sorry if it puts anybody out especially, but we also want to keep our businesses open,” said Greg Dougherty. “We don’t want to get back to phase one. That’s pretty much our other alternative in our eyes, is to go back to phase one. We don’t want that.”
Following his statements, Kelly Dougherty added, “We can not shut back down again. Our businesses won’t survive that … We can’t go backwards. We need to live. We need to go on. In order to do that, it’s a small sacrifice to wear a face mask, so be it.”
The ordinance states it is unlawful for anyone to be in a public space without wearing a face covering. The ordinance defines the following places as public spaces: Banks, convention facilities, common areas, shopping centers, laundromats, reception areas, restaurants, retail establishments, retail stores, schools, spas, sports arenas, theaters, waiting rooms, amusement parks, attractions and any place where food is prepared or stored.
Exceptions to the face covering ordinance include children under the age of 13, any person with a health condition documented by a medical professional that prohibits wearing a face covering, any person who is hearing impaired or someone who is communicating with a person who is hearing impaired, any person who is in a public place consuming food, drink or smoking while seated and maintaining six feet of physical distance, any person in the water at a swimming pool or lake, any person obtaining a service including the face or nose, any person playing a sport or exercising, any person who is outdoors and maintaining six feet or physical distance, any person performing on a fixed stage, any person engaged in public speaking and maintaining six feet of physical distance, any public safety officer engaged in an emergency situation.
The ordinance also states that it is unlawful for any person operating a public space to allow any person in the public space who is not wearing a face covering unless that person in the public space is exempt from wearing a face covering as provided in this ordinance.
According to the ordinance, anyone who fails to wear a face covering when required can be charged a fine of up to $100 and court costs.
“What we are going to do is polite policing,” said Kelly Dougherty. “We’ve been doing that. Chief Forrest is amazing with the polite policing.
“So he’s got his crew, and they’re working out a plan of what they’re going to do. If they can convince somebody to wear a mask or leave the facility, that’s what they’ll do, versus give them a fine.”
The ordinance also states signage is required to be posted at all points of entry and exit for all city business operations. The signs must state the following: “It is a violation of law to enter the premises without a face covering.
Please maintain at least six feet of distance between individuals that are not family members or do not reside together.”