Hamilton County issues face mask mandate, punishable by $50 fine, as COVID-19 cases continue to increase

Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Mayor Jim Coppinger speaks during a press conference at the Hamilton County Health Department's Golley Auditorium on Monday, July 6, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

People in Hamilton County will soon be required to wear a face covering or mask in public to help curb the spread of COVID-19, Mayor Jim Coppinger said during a media briefing on Monday.

Starting Friday, citizens who fail to cover their faces could be accused of a Class C misdemeanor offense, with penalties ranging from a $50 fine up to 30 days in jail.

The order by the Hamilton County Health Department, at the direction of Coppinger, requires masks or facial coverings be worn over the mouth and nose "at all times when indoors in all public and private buildings and when outdoors," through Sept. 8.

While the executive order lists a number of exceptions to the order including children under 12, people with certain existing respiratory conditions, people with mental or hearing challenges and all people in certain occasions, generally, people indoors must wear coverings unless in a house of worship that does not require coverings, seated at a restaurant for dining or a select few other private occasions.