DECATUR, Ala. – The Decatur City Council passed a facial covering resolution at a special meeting Monday evening.
The council members met again on Tuesday to discuss turning the facial covering resolution into an ordinance but no decision was made.
Before the city council meeting even started on Tuesday, people who oppose having a mask ordinance in Decatur stood outside city hall in protest.
“It has nothing to do with the actual wearing of a mask. This has to do with subjugation of our culture. This has to do with challenging individual liberties,” said Tom Fredricks.
City council members spent most of the evening listening to people on both sides of the issue.
“Tonight we gave the public, which I think is the paramount thing we should do as city council members is listen to the public. I’m assuming that all of us got as many calls as I did today. And very honestly it was fifty/fifty,” said Council President Paige Bibbee.
An overwhelming majority of the citizens present at Tuesday’s meeting were against the ordinance saying it infringes upon their freedom.
Councilman Kirby asked those people, “If you had a chance to wear your mask and you could save that person’s life would you wear that mask or do you want to insist on the absolute freedom to not wear that mask knowing that person would die?”
Members of the crowd responded in chatters:
“Freedom… freedom… freedom…”
Saying freedom is what they would choose. Council President Paige Bibbee said many people in favor of the ordinance have emailed and called with their support.
“Someone who doesn’t want to be infected or the potential to be infected is definitely not going to come to an audience like we had tonight because of the possibilities are greater because of the chances to spread it,” said Bibbee.
Mayor Tab Bowling urged the council to not rush the process and wait until next week to re-visit the idea of a mask ordinance and to see how the community responds to the mask resolution over the holiday weekend.
“I think we are on a running clock. And the numbers are still going up. And I think it’s important that we address this soon,” said councilman Billy Jackson.
Council members went back and forth on when to reconvene for a work session to discuss parameters for a potential mask ordinance, landing on next Monday. The work session will be at 4 prior to a 6 p.m. public meeting.
The resolution passed Monday strongly 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.