Staff Photo by Tim Barber / Dalton City Hall is located downtown and is a multi-use facility.

Starting Monday, July 13, residents and visitors of any city building in Dalton must wear a mask.

The City Council and other local government leaders sent out a news release Friday afternoon saying there is now a mandate in place requiring the public to wear masks in all city buildings.

City employees will also be required to wear face masks in city buildings when interacting with the public and when they are unable to practice social distancing from each other.

"Because local governments are prohibited by [Georgia] Gov. [Brian] Kemp's executive orders from enforcing any ordinance or rule regarding the pandemic, the city of Dalton is not considering enacting an ordinance ordering the use of face masks throughout Dalton," the statement reads.

However, the city strongly encouraged all residents to follow the guidance of public health officials and the state of Georgia by wearing a face mask when in public places to help slow or prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Cities like Savannah, Athens and Atlanta have instituted their own mask mandates, despite Kemp's executive orders.

Whitfield County has become one of the state's new hot spots for the coronavirus.

On July 7, the state health department reported 98 new cases, a record for cases in a single day.

Since then, the state has reported daily case counts of 90 and 95 on Thursday and Friday, respectively.

Five people were reported dead due to complications with the virus from July 2 to 7. Hospitalizations have also been slowly climbing in the county.

Whitfield County went from averaging about 12 to 15 cases a day on a moving seven-day average in early June to averaging more than 61 in the past seven days.

The dramatic rise in cases comes on the heels of Whitfield County Chairwoman Lynn Laughter floating the idea of a face mask mandate, one similar to the Hamilton County mandate issued Monday in Tennessee. However, it has little support from other commissioners.

In Thursday's situation report from the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency, 2,322 people were reported hospitalized for COVID-19. The previous peak was 1,906 on April 24.

Statewide, 83% of critical care beds are being used. In the nine-county region where Whitfield County is, there are 16 available critical care beds out of a total of 46. Some Northwest Georgia residents have also been treated in Chattanooga-area hospitals with COVID-19 symptoms.

Hospitalizations in Whitfield County went up from 50 to 74 between June 30 and July 10.

Kemp and his staff said in a statement Friday that the recent hospitalizations are mostly for young people with acute illnesses where treatment has been more effective compared to earlier in the spring. Kemp added he and his team are monitoring hospitalizations and capacity nearly every hour.

Contact Patrick Filbin at or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.