UPDATE: Athens passes mandatory mask ordinance

Published: Jul. 10, 2020 at 9:12 PM EDT
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UPDATE 7/13/2020 8:45 P.M.

ATHENS, Ohio (WTAP) - Athens City Council passes an ordinance on July 13, 2020, requiring people in the city to wear a mask in public. It passed unanimously with an amendment. The amendment is that people with respiratory conditions and mental health issues do not have to wear them. If you are also talking to someone who is hearing impaired or needs to read your lips to be able to understand you, you do not need to wear a mask. Children under 10 do not need to wear them. If you are eating or drinking, you do not need to wear one. If you are outside exercising, and you can socially distance by at least six feet, you do not need to wear one.

You can be fined $100 for an administrative offense payable to the city through the Athens Police Department for violating this ordinance. It is a misdemeanor offense. You would have 30 days to pay the fine. You can appeal it.

The ordinance will be complaint-based.

ATHENS, Ohio (WTAP) - The City of Athens could be the next Ohio city to make masks mandatory in public spaces.

Athens City Council met in a special session Friday evening to discuss the ordinance. As the draft is written, the ordinance would require a face covering which covers the nose, mouth, and chin when inside a public building or when in an outdoor setting where six feet of social distancing cannot be maintained.

With that, there are numerous exceptions. For example, people with health conditions that would be irritated by the mask would not have to wear it.

Athens Mayor Steve Patterson says the ordinance would be enforced on a complaint basis. Those found in violation of the ordinance could face a civil fine.

“Currently in the ordinance, there is a civil fine that someone can incur of up to $100. There’s also an appeals process that one could go through if they feel they unjustly received said citation,” said Patterson.

City Council President Christine Knisely said Friday’s Committee of the Whole meeting was attended by over 100 community members through Zoom. As it was a committee meeting, no vote was held.

She says the ordinance is up for its first reading this Monday during city council’s regular business meeting, but members could decide to suspend the rules to pass it that night. With an emergency clause already in the draft, the legislation would go into effect as soon as it passes.

“Given the extreme increase in the number of cases in the county in the last ten days, we’re eager to get this ordinance into effect as soon as possible,” said Knisely.

The ordinance, which is dated July 8, says the county has seen a five-fold increase in active COVID-19 cases in one week. According to numbers on the state’s coronavirus resource website, Athens County stands at 111 cases.

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