The chief judge of the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit has issued an order that city officials say will require people to wear masks in four Columbus public buildings.
The order issued early this week by Superior Court Judge Gil McBride requires “all persons arriving for court must wear face coverings over their nose and mouth.”
The order applies to the Government Center, where most of the judges are housed and conduct proceedings. It also applies to the Muscogee County Jail, where Recorder’s Court is held. Because the Columbus Civic Center and the adjacent Ice Skating Rink in the South Commons are also holding court hearings during the COVID crisis, the judge’s mask order will apply there, as well.
Last week, Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson ordered masks be worn in public buildings. A da later Gov. Brian Kemp issued an order that said local jurisdictions could not mandate mask wearing.
So, why is McBride’s order different?
“If you read through the governor’s order, he specifically said and clarified that his order didn’t reach the judicial branch or to interfere with our obstruction of the judicial branch operations,” McBride said.
The order becomes effective at 5 p. m. Tuesday,
In addition to requiring masks, McBride also mandates contact tracing for anyone who is infected with the COVID-19 virus. That tracing is to be done by the county health departments in all six counties of the judicial circuit. In addition to Columbus, that includes Harris, Chattahoochee, Taylor, Talbot and Marion. Masks will be required for court proceedings in those courthouses.
The order urges those with court business to do as much of it as possible through video conferencing.