Athens City Council reinstated the universal mask mandate Monday evening which requires all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a mask when in indoor public spaces.
The decision comes after a discussion within Council Aug. 9, when Athens was declared an area of substantial transmission by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, which recommends all individuals wear masks when in indoor public spaces. The Athens City-County Health Department issued a universal indoor mask alert following the CDC’s declaration.
According to the renewed Athens mandate, individuals waiting in line to enter a public space are not required to wear a mask.
“This is a public health decision. This is not a decision based on anything but trying to keep everyone safe and healthy,” Councilman Sam Crowl, D-3rd Ward, said. “Masks will be necessary to keep us healthy and to comply with the guidance of the CDC, so I just wanted to reiterate that this is a public health decision, this is about people’s lives.”
The mandate will expire Feb. 28, 2022, unless preemptively rescinded by Council.
Council also heard a presentation from Jason Jolley, professor of rural economic development in Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service, and Brent Lane, senior executive in residence at the Voinovich School, on a project exploring the benefits and attractions of remote work in non-metropolitan areas. The presentation follows an ordinance approved Aug. 9 by Council to partner with Sunday Creek Horizons, a consulting firm, in establishing a remote work program and space in Athens.
Lane pointed out that remote work, which is when an employee works online from a different location than their employer, has been increasing in recent years, even prior to the pandemic.
“Remote working decouples where we live from where we work, and that enables people who want to live somewhere other than near where they work to choose their preferences. For a lot of Americans that preference is a non-metro location,” Lane said.
Athens has several attractive features for remote workers, including attainable housing, favorable cost of living, childcare, outdoor recreation and professional education, Lane said. In turn, an increase in remote work helps import income for local spending, diversify the economy and retain more graduates and young workers.
Several ordinances were approved, including a closure of a portion of Union Street from Court Street to College Street on Sunday for OU’s student involvement fair. Parking will be banned from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and the road will be closed to traffic between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Council accepted a $15,790 grant from the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation, as well as authorized the city’s Service Safety Director to advertise and accept bids for the purchase of a new city dump truck.