Face coverings are now a part of the new norm when going into any government facility in Baldwin County.
Members of the Baldwin County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to mandate such a new policy at Tuesday night’s commission meeting.
The mandate comes amid an increasing number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Milledgeville and Baldwin County.
The virus is also spreading throughout surrounding counties and officials in many of those communities have either enacted similar policies or are considering taking such action.
Health experts contend that wearing face coverings is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of the potentially deadly virus that has sickened nearly 600 residents and claimed the lives of 34 people in Baldwin County since the pandemic hit the area in mid-March.
“I’d like to highlight that we’re in the top-24 percentile in the whole state about the rate of COVID-19, meaning that there are 130 counties that have less than the rate we have in Baldwin County,” said Baldwin County Commission Chairman Henry R. Craig. “We have a serious problem. And we’re not addressing it very well.”
Craig told fellow commissioners he wanted to propose some ideas for consideration. He also pointed out that several digital billboards throughout the county now feature joint messages from the city of Milledgeville and Baldwin County about four major steps local government officials are encouraging all residents to take to help safeguard against the virus.
Craig said the county partnered with city officials after Milledgeville Mayor Mary Parham-Copelan visited with him last Friday and suggested a public service campaign.
Those four steps include wearing face coverings, practicing social distancing, washing hands frequently, and disinfecting surfaces in homes and offices.
Craig said during Parham-Copelan’s visit with him that Baldwin County Assistant Manager Dawn Hudson, who also serves as the county’s finance director, provided $600 from county funds to join the city in the public service billboard campaign.
“I’d like to take it a step further in that based on the COVID rate in Baldwin County and based on this growing in Baldwin County, and based on what a huge problem this is for Baldwin County and for Milledgeville that the mayor, and I would like to suggest that we pool resources and do everything we can to make the COVID issue and the safety recommendations for COVID more prominent to our citizens,” Craig said.
He added that he would also like to propose that county commissioners put up $5,000 to be used for public relations services to alert residents on the importance of taking health precautions against the virus.
Craig said the county will receive reimbursement for that money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and CARES.
“The city and the county will work together to create opportunities to advertise and educate so that we can get more voluntary compliance from our citizens,” Craig said.
The commission chairman also shared with commissioners a safety promise campaign that has been launched by Gov. Brian Kemp.
“I would like y’alls agreement that Baldwin County sign up and become a participant of this campaign,” Craig said.
He proposed that everyone who goes into a county-owned building to wear a mask.
“I asked our county attorney, Mr. (David) McRee about it and he agreed that we could make that a requirement,” Craig said. “I’ve gone to the sheriff (Bill Massee) and he said he supports it.”
The measure was approved by the board.
The commission chairman said he hopes city officials will match the county’s $5,000.
“Under our present circumstances, as many lives and people as are threatened or endangerment by COVID in our community, we do as much as possible,” commission vice chairman Tommy French said. “This is a small step. This sends a message to the community that we are here for lives to be saved.”