Decatur City Council approves mandatory mask-wearing ordinance

It passed by a vote of 3 to 2.

Posted: Jul 8, 2020 4:51 PM
Updated: Jul 8, 2020 11:34 PM

Sabrina Buford has been a stylist in Decatur for more than a year, but has been styling hair for more than two decades. She said she was happy to hear that the city council finally voted to adopt a mandatory mask ordinance Wednesday night.

"The numbers have really spiked and I just think that whoever's in charge of telling us what to do and the leaders, we should comply with that. And I just want to see the numbers go down," Buford said.

On Wednesday, Morgan County's coronavirus total reached 1,157. The county added 297 cases in the past 14 days.

Decatur Council President Paige Bibbee said she is worried about how a continuing increase in coronavirus cases could impact Decatur Morgan Hospital staff.

"If we get in a situation where normal procedures, such as heart attacks, strokes, things of that nature cannot be seeN by our local hospital, then I think that's something that would be more critical than what we're talking about right now," Bibbee said.

During Wednesday's city council meeting, Decatur Police Chief Nate Allen discussed his participation in a task force monitoring the spread of the coronavirus and said that its members were in full support of the mask ordinance.

"Our goal is overall safety. How do we start getting down these numbers? The numbers are continuing to climb. That's not fictitious," Chief Allen said.

He said that Decatur Police would help enforce the ordinance through four steps: educate, warn, cite and then arrest, only if absolutely necessary. The penalty for the citiation would be up to the Municipal Judge in Decatur. Those who don't obey the ordinance could face a fine of "not less than one dollar ($1) and not more thant five hundred dollars ($500).

One important exception that was added to the ordinance that passed in a 3-2 vote was that it does not mandate masks to be worn at polling locations. The ordinance states that "Voters are strongly encouraged to wear a facial covering or mask inside the voting center. However, a voter will not in nowise be prohibited from voting because of their failure to wear a facial covering or mask."

Many residents who attended the council meeting let still believing that the ordinance oversteps what the city should do.

"If you want people to use it, have the city hand out free masks to people at businesses, free hand sanitizer and encourage them to take them and use them. I think you would get a better response from that. But at this time, a lot of people just feel like they haven't been listened to," said resident Julie Clausen.

Back at Top Chic, Buford said she had no worries about her clients complying with the ordinance.

"I'm not worried about that at all. My clients, they love me and I love them and they're going to do it, absolutely, what I ask of them," Buford said.

Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling has up to ten days to either sign, veto or offer amendments to the ordinance. After that, it needs to be published in the local paper. The next day at 5 p.m., the ordinance will go into effect.

To read the ordinance in full, click here.

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