December 8, 2020–12:36 p.m.
The Rome City Commission, in response to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the community, has approved an emergency ordinance requiring facial coverings in public areas.
Prior to the vote, Dr. Gary Voccio, health director for the ten-county Georgia Department of Public Health Northwest Health District, told commissioners that we are seeing a 16% testing positivity rate in Floyd County.
There are also concerning numbers regarding hospitals.
“Adventist Hospital in Gordon County is a small hospital, they have 53 beds but 21 of their patients are COVID,” he said. “Cartersville has a 106-bed capacity, with 29 COVID patients and they have no critical care beds available. Floyd Medical Center has 327 beds and 63 of those are COVID patients. They only have 20% critical care beds. Redmond has 238 hospital beds and 53 are occupied by COVID patients. They have 5% critical care beds available.”
Dr. Voccio added that masks do work.
“The 84 people in Floyd County who have died got it from someone else,” he said. “We have to protect ourselves. We have to protect our community by wearing a mask and physically distancing when able. People get COVID from other people and we need to protect each other by wearing a mask.”
Some additions were made to the mask ordinance including a provision for restaurants, retail stores, salons, grocery stores, and pharmacies in the city to require employees to wear a mask when having face-to-face interactions with the public, and a requirement that anyone occupying any outdoor public spaces, including public right-of-ways, must wear a mask. Exceptions include those who are exercising and athletic programs.
There are several exceptions where masks are NOT required.
- In personal vehicles or residential property
- When a person is alone in enclosed spaces or only with other household members
- When the individual has a bona fide religious objection to wearing a face covering or mask
- While drinking or eating
- When a licensed healthcare provider has determined that wearing a face-covering or mask causes or aggravates a health condition for the individual or when such person has a bona fide medical reason for not wearing a face covering or mask
- When wearing a face covering or mask would prevent the receipt of personal services or performing work in the course of employment
- When complying with the directions of a law enforcement officer or for the purposes of verifying a person’s identity, such as when purchasing alcohol, tobacco, or prescription drugs, or when engaging in a financial transaction;
- Children under the age of ten (10) years
- When the individual is having difficulty donning or removing a face mask or face covering without assistance;
- At any polling place and no individual shall be denied ingress or egress to or from a polling place for failure to wear a face-covering or mask
- When outdoors and maintaining social distancing from anyone other than individuals with whom you cohabitate.
Businesses that do not consent to the enforcement of this ordinance upon its property shall post a clearly legible sign in at least one inch Arial font at all public entrances of such entity stating the following: “This location does not consent to the enforcement of any local face-covering requirement upon this property.”
Civil penalties for the violations of the ordinance would range from a warning for a first offense, a fine of no more than $25 for a second offense, and up to a $50 fine for any subsequent offenses.
NOTE: Every effort shall be made to bring an individual into voluntary compliance with the terms of this ordinance prior to issuance of any notice of violation, including providing complimentary masks, explaining the importance of wearing face coverings during this pandemic, and issuing verbal and written warnings.
Any person who is found in violation of this Ordinance and who cannot afford a face mask or face covering shall be provided one.