DALTON, Ga., Jan. 11 — Tthe Whitfield County Board of Commissioners voted to repeal the controversial mask mandate imposed on all citizens within County facilities and vehicles.
By Abigail Darnell
Reconsideration of the mask mandate was not originally on the meeting agenda, but after receiving stacks of petitions, calls and emails from constituents decrying the mandate the week prior, the Commissioners amended the agenda to address their concerns.
Supporters of the repeal are calling it a “huge win for freedom and personal responsibility in Whitfield County.”
Billy Joe Wilson spoke at the meeting in favor of the repeal “I have heard the comments that this is only for county buildings, this is still a mandate that I can’t use these buildings which are tax payer funded unless I abide by your arbitrary mandate.”
Wilson is a life-long resident of Whitfield County and when asked why he chose to do something about the mask mandate replied, “The almighty God does not force me to obey His righteousness, He convinces me that His way is better. Just because you have a good idea doesn’t mean you have the right to give a man a gun and force it.”
Another citizen Caleb Callahan, during the public comments section of the
meeting, presented information from a Comprehensive Data Analysis of Florida Counties comparing those which imposed mask mandates versus free counties that had no mask requirements.
“When counties did have a mask mandate in effect there were… an average of 23 cases per 100,000 people. When there was not a county-wide order, there was an average of 22 cases per 100,000.” He said, “Counties with mandates in place actually did worse than those without.”
Callahan then compared data from states that had state-wide mask requirements and demonstrated that when states did not have
a state-wide order they had fewer cases of Covid, not more.
“Mask mandates do little to nothing to stop or even slightly curb the spread of Covid-19.” He concluded, “If masks were the answer, wouldn’t you expect to see a drop in cases not long after mandates were implemented? The data does not bear out a government mandate to force people to wear masks in this county.” These comments were received with hearty applause from the crowd.
‘Liberty over safety’
Stephen Smith, a local chemist and petition signer, likewise addressed the absence of scientific evidence supporting the mandate, “If a local government is going to require a mandate on the grounds of public
safety, they should have no difficulty proving it. Those studies should also take into account the negative effects that masks have on those with chronic issues such as sinusitis and asthma. A sweeping requirement should require incontrovertible evidence.”
“We are each responsible for our own health, and our leaders should recognize that,” said Smith. “I signed the petition to let the board know I value liberty over safety.”
The mask requirement passed unanimously on December 14th and states that the Board of Commissioners “strongly encourages the use of masks in public.”
Whereas the ordinance required “the use of masks within indoor Whitfield County Facilities and Vehicles to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.” The Dalton Daily Citizen reported that when Commissioner Greg Jones was asked why he had changed his mind so soon after that vote, Jones said he had “seen a little more data that masks don’t help.”
Of the numerous citizens who spoke during public comments, only one of them wore a mask: Shannon Bearfield, a candidate running for the District 3 seat on the Commission in the March 16 special election.
She urged the Board to consider overwhelmed hospitals and the medical care that would be unavailable to accident victims and others if the majority of hospital beds were filled with Covid patients.
She said, “We don’t know what those long term effects are going to be, because we’re still in the short term right now.”
Some Whitfield citizens, however, believe the virus has been exaggerated and politicized for a year, which they say is far from short term. Crystal Cochran, one of the petition signers said, “The citizens of this county are sick and tired of Covid tyranny. We want the freedom to make our own medical decisions and that includes the freedom to breathe air. We just want the government to stop managing our health and let us decide for ourselves how to treat or prevent viruses. Health care is simply not
Cochran said, “If local businesses want to require masks, that is their prerogative, and we can take our business elsewhere if we choose, but you don’t have that choice with your government.”
Deborah Gordon echoed this frustration and yearn for self government when she told the Commissioners, “I am an adult United States Citizen. If I
don’t want to wear a mask I don’t have to, but I have enough common sense
and respect for my fellow man that I would protect the people at risk.”
Whitfield County is located in Georgia’s 14th Congressional district. The same district that overwhelmingly elected Congresswoman Marjorie Greene, who has come under heavy criticism for her refusal to wear a mask in Congress.
Commissioner Greg Jones made the motion to end the mask mandate immediately. The other commissioners Barry Robbins and Robby
Staten both stated that they felt the mandate was unenforceable and voted to overturn it.
The vote passed unanimously 3-0 and observers expressed their gratitude in loud applause.
Having restored what they consider medical freedom in Whitfield County, some of the same liberty-loving activists, emboldened by this success, have turned their attention to the mask mandate in effect in the City of Dalton.
Dalton restricts unmasked citizens from using tax dollar-funded facilities and an online petition is now circulating addressed to Mayor David Pennington and the City Council for its repeal.