Shoals mayors discuss enforcement of mandatory mask order

The mask order goes into effect July 16th.

Posted: Jul 15, 2020 5:10 PM
Updated: Jul 15, 2020 9:03 PM

Wednesday, Gov. Kay Ivey issued a mandatory mask order across the state.

Alabama's coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths continue to rise rapidly and have risen the highest over the last two weeks according to the state.

There are some exceptions to wearing a mask in public. For instance, a child under the age of six doesn't have to wear a mask in public, if your speaking to an audience you don't have to wear a mask, if your working out you don't have to wear a mask as long as your socially distanced. Other exceptions are listed here.

"There are some other more restrictive options we could take like closing things back down but I don't want to go there unless there are absolutely no other options available," said Ivey.

Ivey made it clear that this statewide mask ordinance is a must-have to protect public safety and the economy.

"To keep our businesses open and our economy on the way to recovery it's vitally important that our people continue to earn a paycheck. You cannot work if you are not healthy," said Ivey.

Businesses can refuse access to people who try to come in without a mask. You can also face a $500 fine and jail time.

"We are not asking our sheriffs and police officers to go out looking for people who aren't wearing a mask and arrest them but we are asking everyone to a better job social distancing, personal hygiene, and now face masks," said Ivey.

State health officer Scott Harris said with no vaccine or treatment and ICU beds filling up, this is one of the only options to save lives.

"People will certainly be upset about being told to do anything but this is a health order that protects the people around you and keeps other people safe," said Harris.

The mask order officially starts July 16th at 5 pm and lasts until July 31st, when the current safer at home order expires. The governor said she maintains the right to extend the mask order if coronavirus cases continue to climb.

Florence Mayor Steve Holt, and Muscle Shoals Mayor David Bradford said their first focus is equipping police officers with educational tools on the ordinance and possibly masks to give people breaking the ordinance.

"If an officer walks up to someone who doesn't have on a mask and asks them to please put on a mask and that person says I don't have a mask then were going to be in the position of providing a mask," said Holt.

Holt told me his officers have a good supply of masks and are looking at ordering more to put in patrol officers cars.

"That's another expense and another responsibility for an officer to have some in his or her vehicle," said Holt.

Mayors in the Shoals, including Holt, worry it will be hard to enforce the ordinance.

"We have officer turn over so always per shift were short a couple of officers and to put this on top of them will be virtually impossible to enforce," said Holt.

He's still holding out hopes that people will do the right thing and be cool with wearing the masks.

"Is it going to be that tough? I hope not. This is a chance to exercise not only your self control but your self respect," said Holt.

Despite the city of Florence not issuing a mask order, Holt said he agrees with the governors mask order.

"It was a good decision on her part and I'm glad she didn't make the move to close down our businesses because we cannot go through that again," said Holt.

Some people in Florence said the mask ordinance should have been done a long time ago. No city council's in the Shoals issued any mask ordinances prior to the mask order.

"It should have been done several months ago we would have a lot less virus going around. People don't care unless they are mandated to do something and still some will decline it and not do it," said Florence citizen, Ralph Latham.

The mayors in Sheffield (Ian Sanford), Tuscumbia (Kerry Underwood), and Muscle Shoals all shared concerns over stretching police departments thin in trying to enforce the mask order, and they have concerns people could become confrontational if asked to wear a mask.

Russellville Mayor David Grissom said he hopes the governor's mask ordinance shows people how seriously they must take coronavirus.

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