This story was updated at 1:44 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 3, with more information about mask enforcement in Hamilton County.
Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger renewed a countywide mask mandate initially put into place on July 10, to extend through Oct. 8. Citizens who fail to cover their faces to prevent the spread of the coronavirus could be accused of a Class C misdemeanor offense, with penalties ranging from a $50 fine up to 30 days in jail.
Here is what's required and what is not required.
Facial coverings shall fit snugly and securely against the side of the face. Cloth facial coverings are preferred and should include multiple layers of fabric. Surgical and other medical masks (e.g. N95) are not required and should be preserved for health care personnel, according to Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger's executive order.
Face coverings are not required for:
- Children under 12 years of age.
- Anyone with documented medical contraindications to facial covers such as active asthma or COPD.
- Anyone who is acutely short of breath or incapacitated such that they would be unable to remove the covering on their own.
- People who are deaf or hard of hearing – or those who care for or interact with a person who is hearing impaired if they rely on lip reading to communicate. In this situation, consider using a clear face covering. If a clear face covering is not available, consider whether you can use written communication, use closed captioning or decrease background noise to make communication possible while wearing a cloth face covering that blocks your lips.
- People with intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental health conditions or other sensory sensitivities, who may have challenges wearing a cloth face covering. Those people are encouraged to consult with their health care provider for advice about wearing cloth face coverings.
- People in a house of worship unless required by that house of worship, but wearing a face covering in such locations is strongly encouraged.
- People who are outdoors unless the person cannot substantially maintain appropriate social distancing from others outside of the person's household. Facial coverings should, however, be kept accessible in the event of encountering a larger group.
- People in cars, trucks, or other private or commercial vehicles either alone or with household members. However, all occupants in vehicles transporting more than one coworker, carpooling or carrying other non-household passengers shall wear facial coverings.
- People working under conditions where appropriate social distancing from others outside of the person's household can be maintained. A facial covering should be kept accessible in the event that others enter the area.
- Office workers and any other employee working alone in an area (such as a private office) where the public or other workers are not present or do not usually enter. A facial covering should be kept accessible in the event others enter that area.
- People who are exercising, such as jogging, bicycling, or swimming, etc., either alone or in small groups where physical distancing of 6 feet or greater can be maintained. A facial covering should be kept accessible in the event of encountering a larger group.
- Private residences are exempt, but hallways, elevators and other common areas of apartment buildings, condominiums and other medium- or high-density residential structures are not exempt.
- People seated for the purpose of dining in any restaurant or business that provides food and/or drink for on-premises consumption.
Required for businesses:
According to Directive No. 1 of the Hamilton County health officer, effective Friday, July 10, all businesses shall post signage in a place visible to those entering to remind customers of this requirement.
The following verbiage is approved by the Hamilton County Health Department in English and Spanish:
"As directed by the Hamilton County Health Department, any person entering this building shall wear a facial covering."
"Según las directrices del Departamento de Salud del Condado de Hamilton, toda persona que entre en este edificio deberá llevar puesta una cubierta facial."
While masks will be required in almost all public situations, Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond has said that sheriff's deputies will not "harass" residents not wearing them and will issue warnings when possible.
Hammond said deputies, who will be wearing masks in most circumstances, will not be responding to every call of someone not wearing a mask or imposing citations on every offender because the goal is safety, not sending people to jail.
Chattanooga Police Chief David Roddy also said that Chattanooga Police Department officers will not be issuing citations for non-mask compliance but that everyone is strongly encouraged to wear a mask.
The city of Chattanooga announced they will lend two code enforcement workers from the Department of Economic and Community Development to assist the health department in issuing citations for businesses that are "egregiously" out of compliance.
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