DECATUR, Ala. – The Decatur City Council passed a facial covering resolution at a special meeting Monday evening.
The resolution encourages the use of facial coverings in public, hand sanitizing and social distancing by all residents and business owners in the city. The resolution is an order but carries no penalty. City Council members say the resolution is part of their tiered approach to slow the spread of COVID-19 in their community, but if residents don’t heed the warning, an ordinance might be necessary.
“I hope people will see this. That we are serious, we do have the authority to make it a mandate, which holds a fine,” said City Council President Paige Bibbee.
During the meeting, Decatur residents and business owners spoke both for and against the proposed ordinance, and whether the city should go forward with creating an ordinance for face covering is very divided.
“This is a civil liberty and personal choice issue. I’m not against wearing a mask. I’m against it becoming a crime not to wear one,” said business owner Sarah Minnon.
Councilman Billy Jackson says he doesn’t believe the people will take the resolution seriously and is in favor of passing an ordinance.
“This resolution that I’ve seen has no teeth and I’m not a favor of this resolution,” says Councilman Billy Jackson.
Council members cited rising case numbers and hospital capacities in Morgan County and surrounding areas for reasons of concern and why an ordinance could be necessary moving forward if people do not follow guidelines in the resolution.
After a recent increase of COVID-19 cases in Morgan County, Judy Smith with the Alabama Department of Public Health stressed the importance of wearing masks. Smith said 58 percent of the cases in Morgan County have occurred in the past seven days.
“I don’t even want an ordinance, I just think we don’t have much of a choice right now,” says Councilman Charles Kirby.
City Council President Paige Bibbee says they anticipated needing more time to listen to public comment and make changes to the suggested ordinance before it goes for a vote.
“I think there are special circumstances that we will address in the ordinance that absolutely have merit. So I think those need to be worked out and that is what will happen tomorrow,” says Councilwoman Paige Bibbee.
The council will hold another special session on Tuesday at 5 p.m. to discuss upgrading the facial covering resolution into an ordinance.
Jefferson County officials issued a mandatory face-covering order that went into effect at 5 p.m. on June 29.