By Megan Broome and Wayne Knuckles
CLAYTON—The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Rabun County increased again in the past week.
There have now been 86 confirmed cases, three deaths and 16 hospitalizations due to the disease since March in Rabun County, according to information from the Georgia Dept. of Public Health (GDPH). Rabun County passed Towns County, which reported 70 as of Tuesday, and now has the second-lowest number of cases in the region.
Numbers for nearby counties included:
N Habersham – 785 cases
N Stephens – 333 cases
N Macon County (N.C.) – 333 cases
N Oconee County (S.C.) – 333 cases
Statewide, 123,963 COVID-19 cases have been reported in Georgia since March, resulting in 3,054 deaths and 13,685 hospitalizations.
Clayton city buildings to require masks
Clayton City Council discussed putting in place a policy requiring face coverings in city buildings Tuesday afternoon.
This would include the entire municipal complex, and include the courtroom and city hall.
“It would be better if we all had masks on,” said Mia Sharpton, Treasurer and Human Resources Manager, told the city council.
One employee spoke and stated that employees who wear face masks for long periods of time could become light-headed and it would make working under those conditions difficult.
Mayor Jordan Green said that in situations where an employee is alone in their office or not interacting with others or the public, it would be reasonable to say that they do not have to wear a mask. He said that if two employees are in an office conversing “it would be reasonable and wise” to ask them to wear a mask.
The council agreed on a new policy, which reads in part:
“For city business that must be done in person, the city will take reasonable steps to provide such in-person service to members of the public who affirm they cannot wear a face covering because they are physically unable to remove such a face covering, have trouble breathing, or must be accompanied by children under age two (CDC states that children under age two should never wear face coverings … that the city will communicate the types of acceptable face coverings required for entry into city buildings and instructions by the CDC about how to make such face coverings easily and inexpensively…”
Sharpton said that if an individual is not able to wear a face mask due to medical concerns, or for other reasons, that reasonable accommodations will be made to ensure precautions are taken while conducting city business. This includes the use of hand sanitizer, disinfecting surfaces after use and maintaining a distance of six feet apart.
After the meeting, Mitch Baker, city attorney, was asked about the legalities of this mask mandate, since Gov. Brian Kemp has not implemented a state-mandated mask requirement.
Baker said if council members were requiring masks to be worn within “city limits” then that would pose a problem and would not be enforceable because local laws cannot supersede state laws.
He said that the new policy is requiring masks on city property, which would be the same as a private business, like a store requiring patrons to wear a mask before entering the facility.
Baker did note that some cities, such as the city of Atlanta, have enacted mandates that people wear masks within city limits. He said he is interested to see whether these policies will be challenged since it is not enforceable to require someone to wear a mask “within city limits.”
Clayton city hall to be closed again
Council members also discussed closing the city hall to the public “until further notice” and stop renting out the community room.
“I think we do need to close city hall again,” said Mayor Jordan Green.
City Hall will be closed to the public beginning Monday. The move was delayed so that the public can be notified of this change.
In addition, all council meetings will be streamed online, and chamber quarters will only be open to authorized personnel, such as employees, council members and the media.