VALDOSTA, Ga. (WTXL) — The plea for a mask mandate in Valdosta was answered Wednesday when the City Council passed a controversial mask ordinance.
A local coronavirus survivor says the right decision was made for public safety.
"That virus took me off my feet," said Kylie Mathis, a Valdosta resident who survived COVID-19.
Mathis says she was the perfect picture of health before her and her family were diagnosed with COVID-19.
"I got diagnosed with the coronavirus in July," Mathis said. "It took me out, I could barely get out of bed. Getting out of bed and walking down the stairs, I was exhausted. I would be out of breath before I hit the bottom of the stairs."
Mathis was infected after a family member was exposed at work.
She took her story all the way to the Valdosta City Council hoping to get a mask mandate passed and it did, but not without opposition.
"I don't feel that we need to mandate and make it to where everybody doesn't have a choice," said A. Gibbs, a Valdosta City Council member.
"I feel like if you want to wear a mask," businessman Ken Register said. "If you don't, don't."
The mandate requires everyone to wear a mask in public but gives businesses the option to enforce it or not, and cannot be penalized.
It exempts people who are eating, drinking, or have difficulty putting a face mask on.
The penalty can be no larger $50 for each offense.
Valdosta's Mayor, Scott James Matheson says despite a mandate people are doing their part as COVID-19 numbers trend down in the city.
"They told us if we had 80 percent compliance we can cut that number in half," said Matheson. "We've done that and then some."
Mathis says although numbers are trending down people are still getting infected and she doesn't want anyone to go through what she did.
"People die because of this," said Mathis. "It was a very scary moment."
The mask mandate expires in just four days on August 31.
On that day the council would have to extend the order for it to continue to be enforced.