Roswell mayor Lori Henry says the city has weathered the COVID-19 pandemic without a city-wide mask mandate.

While Roswell has not issued a city-wide mask mandate, masks are required in and on city property, according to Henry’s Sept. 2 executive order.

Visitors to city hall undergo temperature checks upon arrival and are required to wears masks. Mask are provided if they do not have one. Employees are also required to wear masks in public spaces, such as hallways, or where they cannot social distance.

“It looks like what we’ve been doing here in Roswell is working and that’s my goal — to keep city staff, as well as citizens, business owners and our visitors safe,” Henry said. “And I think we’ve done a pretty good job of it.”

Henry said it is difficult to mandate masks in restaurants and retail stores because the city does not have a clear way to enforce that. Rather than enforcing masks, Henry and the city are strongly encouraging residents to wear masks. However, many residents have expressed concerns over the apparent lack of social distancing and mask-wearing on Canton Street. Henry says that Canton Street poses two difficulties when enforcing masks.

According to Governor Brian Kemp’s Aug. 31 executive order, all residents and visitors are encouraged to “wear face coverings as practical while outside their homes or place of residence, except when eating, drinking, or exercising outdoors.”

“Walking down Canton Street could have the argument that you’re drinking or exercising,” Henry said. “What we’re counting on is really for people to be accountable for themselves and the people around them. We’re just asking people to be safe.”

As a way to further encourage healthy and safe practices around Roswell, Henry and the Business Recovery Task Force created the Come Back Safely pledge. Both business owners and residents can sign the pledge, promising to wash their hands, social distance and wear a mask. Upon signing the pledge, businesses receive downloadable posters, flyers, graphics and other promotional materials to display in their business.

“Our businesses are hurting not only because of COVID, but also because of the perception of people not knowing if its safe or not,” Henry said. “The idea is that we help to make people feel comfortable in getting back out and frequenting business.”

Henry said the response to the pledge has been largely positive, but there has been criticism from some businesses and residents.

“What I’ve been trying to do is straddle all the information and do what’s best for the city of Roswell,” Henry said. “I can’t worry about what’s going on with national politics. Those can’t be of concern to me because my number one priority as mayor is the health, safety and welfare (of Roswell).”

The city has also cancelled a majority of this year’s public events, including Alive in Roswell, Riverside Sounds and Music on the Hill. According to Henry, the city is unsure if any holiday events like the Dia de los Muertos Parade and Christmas Tree Lighting will be cancelled. The city will have to play it by ear and hope for the number of cases to go down, Henry says.

Henry also said that numbers will also determine when city council and committee meetings will return to face-to-face meetings. City meetings have been conducted over Zoom for the past several months, although Henry admits she would much rather have in person meetings.

“There’s just so much lost in a Zoom screen,” Henry said.

For information on the city’s response to COVID-19, visit www.roswellgov.com/residents/coronavirus.

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