Montgomery City Council passes new mask ordinance

Montgomery City Council passes new mask ordinance

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The Montgomery City Council Tuesday adopted an ordinance sponsored by Councilman C.C. Calhoun requiring face coverings, masks or face shields to be worn in public places at all times by people over the age of 6 years old who can medically tolerate doing so when in public places with 10 or more people present in Montgomery.

All councilmembers voted in favor of the new mask ordinance except for Councilman Brantley Lyons, who abstained from voting. Councilman Tracy Larkin was not at the meeting.

The new ordinance took effect immediately upon passage and supersedes Mayor Steven Reed’s executive order from June 17. It will remain in effect for 30 days unless the council votes to repeal or amend it at its July 21 meeting.

At the previous council meeting, Calhoun proposed a mandatory mask wearing ordinance, which failed to pass with a tied vote of 4-4. Reed then issued an executive order mandating the use of masks in public locations of 10 or more people.

Reed shared his support for the new ordinance Tuesday and pushed for the council to vote in favor.

“I think it’s incumbent upon the council to vote in support of this ordinance because now, as we’ve seen across the country, we’re seeing a tremendous rise in COVID cases,” Reed said. “We’re seeing hospitalizations go through the roof in many municipalities and certainty across many states.”

Alabama and the city of Montgomery’s first ever COVID-19 patient took the stand to voice the need for the ordinance to pass as well.

“This COVID-19 is real. If it can affect me, it can affect everyone,” said William Carter. “I beat the virus and I am still here, but nothing made me more sad than going into these stores and seeing people without these masks. I’m thinking about the impact it has on them, taking  [COVID-19] home to their loved ones.”

Montgomery-area pulmonologist Dr. William Saliski passionately addressed the board saying voting in favor of the ordinance should be a “no brainer.” 

“When I spoke last time, we had over 100 cases per day in Montgomery County, 100 a day, today we are down to 52 a day. Okay how did that happen? That happened with wearing a mask,” said Saliski.

Councilman Brantley Lyons asked Saliski about research he read that suggests a mask’s only purpose is to reduce anxiety. 

“Even the most sustained medical journals admit that their purpose is to calm anxiety,” Brantley said.

Saliski responded with saying, “A mask will work. Now whether you choose to believe it or not, then that’s up to you.”

The new ordinance was also backed by several council members who originally voted against it. Councilman Glenn Pruitt was among those who apologized to Saliski for voting against the mask ordinance at the last city council meeting.

Calhoun’s new ordinance applies uniformly to all people whether customers, clients or employees of businesses, including restaurants, bars and breweries. However, masks or face coverings can be removed to eat or drink.

Business owners, managers and supervisors are responsible for ensuring employees, customers, clients and visitors observe the requirement. Retail stores are called on to strictly observe and enact 50 percent occupancy limits, per the state’s public health order. Additionally, restaurants, bars and nightclubs are limited to no more than 50 percent of the normal occupancy determined by the fire marshal.

Face coverings or masks are not required for those exercising outdoors, specifically walking/jogging, in the privacy of one’s own home or in one’s own vehicle. Other exemptions include patient medical/dental exam rooms or when wearing a mask poses a greater mental or physical health and safety risk.

Failure to comply with the face covering requirement can result in a $25 fine for individuals or a $250 for businesses. Businesses who fail to comply a second time can be subject to a 14-day suspension of their business license pending a hearing of the Montgomery City Council.

Failure to comply with the occupancy requirement on retail stores is a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, is subject to a fine of not less than $25 nor more than $500.

Failure to comply with the requirement on restaurants, bars and nightclubs is subject to a fine between $25 to $100 per person depending on how much the establishment is over permissible occupancy. Businesses who fail to comply a second time can be subject to a 14-day suspension of their business license pending a hearing of the council.

The public can report a business that is not complying with the ordinance by calling the city’s non-emergency number 311.

The full order is available on the city’s website. For more information about the ordinance and Montgomery’s COVID-19 response, please visit www.mgmready.com.

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