OUR VIEW: Time to remove LaFayette’s mask mandate, while being adults about it

Published 9:30 am Saturday, March 19, 2022

We know in March 2022 — two years into this pandemic — you’re probably tired of reading about mask mandates and debates over whether masks are effective or not.

In fact, we don’t want to jinx it, but with COVID-19 numbers trending down, it’s hard to even find those types of debates on social media right now.

However, with that said, we’re not sure we’ve seen a mask discussion like the one that took place at Monday’s LaFayette City Council meeting.

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After a presentation by City Attorney Mack Tucker, who was arguing against the city’s current mask mandate for city employees and city hall, the council tabled a vote to change the mandate.

In the midst of the discussion, Tucker was asked by councilman Michael Ellis why he wasn’t wearing a mask, since the city has a mandate in place.

Defiantly, Tucker said he wasn’t going to wear a mask, pointed to the evidence from the Centers for Disease Control, and ended up leaving to stand outside by the door for the rest of the meeting. He said “whatever happens happens” as he gathered his things to walk out.

The council then started discussing —right in front of him — that it might need a new city attorney.

There’s a lot to dive into here, but it feels like we should start by saying that we believe both sides are in the wrong in some capacity.

The Center for Disease Control’s latest guidelines have eased mask guidance, giving the green light to more than 90% of the United States to take them off. Chambers County is included in that.

We’re all for protecting people, and this space has been filled with editorials for the last two years, practically begging residents to make the right decisions for their health. That included wearing masks.

But it’s March 2022 and LaFayette City Hall is still closed, and having a mask mandate for all city employees is probably going too far. Several council members noted that the situation with COVID-19 could change quickly, and that’s true, but any situation can change quickly.

If cases start to rise again, LaFayette could always add the mandate back, rather than keeping it in place now when cases are seemingly under control. The rest of society — other local cities included — have moved on. If someone feels like they should wear a mask, then they are welcome to. Removing the mandate has no impact on that. 

With all that said, and with all due respect to Tucker, he came across in a poor light in this discussion. He openly admitted he had missed the last council meeting due to the mandate. Per discussion at the meeting, he’s also always refused to wear a mask, even when COVID-19 numbers were much higher. Imagine how that looks to citizens as they see the man who legally represents the city openly breaking a mandate that the council has had in place for their safety.

When he didn’t get his way Monday, Tucker didn’t handle it well. We understand that it might be frustrating to lose the debate, but it’s not hard to put on a mask for an hour or so. All of us have had to put on a mask to enter some businesses over the last two years, and it’s just not that big of a deal. Put the mask on for the meeting, take it off when you leave. Done deal.

Tucker should also never put city leaders in that position where they are arguing with him over a mask mandate. Legally his opinion is valued greatly, but a medical expert would’ve probably been a better presenter than Tucker on this topic.

The truth is LaFayette has a lot more important things to be discussing. This is a city that has had budgeting issues for a couple of years now and has kicked the proverbial can down the road a few too many times. Those items can be discussed just as easily behind masks as they can without them, and that’s where Tucker and the council’s focus should be right now.

Yes, we believe LaFayette should strongly consider removing its mask mandate, with the option to adjust if cases rise again.

But we also believe Tucker should follow the mandate set in place by the city he works for, rather than putting everyone in a tough situation over a piece of cloth.