CAIRO — Officials with the City of Cairo are implementing new safety measures requiring the use of face masks in public buildings following an uptick in local cases of the novel coronavirus last week.

Beginning Monday, all visitors and staff inside city buildings will be required to wear masks at all times. Members of the public who are entering buildings without masks may be provided one.

The new measures are designed to help prevent further spread of the virus in Grady County, which saw a sharp upturn in its rolling seven-day average of new cases last week. Data from the Grady County Health Department shows at least 33 new cases of the virus were identified between Friday, June 26 and Thursday, July 2 — more than double the increase the county had seen during the previous seven day period.

No penalties are currently associated with individuals who refuse to comply with order.

City employees are also being encouraged to be tested for the virus free of charge Wednesday morning. The tests will be conducted at the city utilities office.

At least two city employees are known to have tested positive for the virus, and Mayor Howard Thrower said he and City Manager Chris Addleton are looking to take more “defensive” measures to prevent future cases from cropping up among the city’s nearly 150 workers.

“Right now I am most concerned about employees who may be asymptomatic and are infected without displaying any visible symptoms,” Addleton stated in a memo released to city employees Monday.

City officials were looking at potentially rolling back some safety policies this month, but last week’s uptick in cases has led them to back away from that option. Thrower said one of goals of the new requirements is to prevent a scenario where city buildings have to be entirely closed off to the public as they were earlier this year.

Plans to remove safety restrictions at Roddenbery Memorial Library also have been scrapped in favor of the new rules. Thrower said city officials are constantly monitoring fluctuations in local case numbers and the actions of other libraries across the state in case the library needs to return to a curbside-only service again.

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