OUR VIEW: LaGrange and West Point step up

Published 12:07 pm Thursday, August 20, 2020

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On Tuesday, the city councils of LaGrange and West Point both unanimously approved ordinances authorizing police to enforce the wearing of face masks at businesses who choose to require them.

The specific circumstances where enforcement is allowed were determined by Gov. Brian Kemp, who issued a new executive order Saturday giving local governments some limited powers in enforcing mask wearing.

LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton said he was considering a mask mandate when Kemp restricted cities from instituting them, and to his credit, followed through on that when the policy changed.

The ordinance is not, as some have said, a city-wide mandate. It allows enforcement in limited circumstances and leaves the decision mostly up to business owners. The city’s hands are still very much tied by Kemp, so they are doing what they can with the tools they have.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the White House Task Force identified Georgia as reporting the highest new case rate in the country last week. Numbers in Troup County aren’t the worst they’ve been, but are still less than ideal.

Dr. Ken Gordon, who spoke at the meeting, said that using data models, he estimates that 95% mask compliance in the county would result in 900-1,000 less cases, and 27 less deaths, in the period from July 15 to Nov. 1.

We hope the Hogansville City Council and Troup County Board of Commissioners adopt similar ordinances for their respective jurisdictions. We can talk all day about the difficult of enforcing these ordinances, and we understand the challenge they will result for law enforcement. However, in our eyes, this is less about fines for non-mask wearers and more about a countywide statement of unity.

Mask wearing is important, it’s the easiest way to stop the spread of the virus and it’s something everyone without a medical limitation should be doing. Assuming businesses opt-in, an ordinance by every government entity in the county would be a clear statement of that.