MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed watched Tuesday night as the city council deadlocked 4 to 4 on an ordinance to require the wearing of facial masks in public.
With the tie vote, the ordinance failed. But Reed, undeterred, said he’s been listening to health officials and has decided to issue an executive order that requires the masks be used.
“I’m doing this for one simple reason,” Reed said. “After listening to our health experts, and the warnings they continue to give us, we’re doing this today, because it’s the right thing to do.”
The order goes into effect at 5 p.m Friday and will remain in effect for three weeks as a carryover until the next city council meeting on July 7.
The failed ordinance called for masks in groups of 25 or more. The mayor’s order narrows that to 10 or more. There is a fine of $25 for failure to follow.
A COUNCILMAN’S APOLOGY
Reed, joined by area physicians and community leaders, made the announcement and then invited a councilman up to speak who then apologized for voting against the ordinance.
Councilman Glen Pruitt said he’d had a change of heart, saying he had been focused on the enforcement aspect of the ordinance and had not looked at the big picture.
Pruitt said he thought a long time about his vote after going home Tuesday night and spoke to his wife, asking her if he made a mistake with his vote.
“Listen, it’s a mask, that’s it,” the councilman explained. “If I could have had my daughter back for one more day, you better believe I would have voted for a mask.”
Pruitt’s daughter, Courtney, passed away in 2019 after battling cancer.
DOCTORS SPEAK OUT
Dr. Nina Nelson-Garrett, a gastroenterologist, spoke for private practice doctors. She said mask wearing is an ethical issue for her and that it’s about doing the most good for the most people. She added that hospitals are in need and the public can help.
Dr. Bill Saliski, a pulmonary and critical care doctor, spoke for doctors on the front lines, saying they are getting stretched and that looking at the number of cases every day is a worry.
“I will be here begging for a stay at home order if we’re not careful,” Saliski said.
“There are people out there that just don’t believe this is a problem... until it affects them,” Saliski said, adding that he saw a group of people come in to Jackson Hospital Wednesday morning that didn’t believe in heeding the warnings.
“That group’s in trouble,” he explained.
Saliski also noted some people don’t seek medical help “in a timely manner,” and added that “we have people come in eight to10 days into the disease process. I can’t help them. I try. I hold their hand. I give them what we have. But I can’t help them.”
Dr. Mary McIntyre, Chief Medical Officer for the Alabama Department of Public Health, said ADPH is working to make people understand how important wearing a mask is, telling those in attendance she has lost two friends in the last week to COVID-19.
Montgomery County is number one in the state for total number of COVID-19 cases, surpassing counties like Mobile and Jefferson that have more than double the population.
Reed listed off numbers for the county, explaining his decision by reminding residents that Montgomery now accounts for 11 percent of the state’s confirmed cases and nine percent of confirmed deaths.