DECATUR, Ala — After a procedural error forced a revote on Decatur's mask ordinance, the measure has once again passed.
Mayor Tab Bowling signed the ordinance shortly after the vote. It takes effect Monday, July 13, at 5:00 p.m.
The ordinance will be reviewed every 30 days.
How is a face covering defined?
The ordinance states that face coverings are required in public places within the city limits by all people age 2 or older, with limited exceptions. Face coverings can be made from scarves, bandanna, or similar fabrics and must be kept clean and sanitary. Medical-grade masks are discouraged "as they are in short supply and should generally be reserved for high-risk first responders and healthcare workers or those coming into direct contact with suspected COVID-19 patients." Parents of children between the ages of 2 and 8 may use their discretion "regarding the ability of those children to consistently and effectively wear a face covering or mask."
Scroll down to read the complete ordinance.
What's the reason for this ordinance?
After a recent spike in COVID-19 cases, the city of Decatur wants to avoid another shutdown and economic disruption, and says "the safety of the citizens and the economy is best protected by all residents and visitors wearing facial coverings/masks in public, sanitizing hands and practicing social physical distancing."
Face coverings must "cover the nose and mouth of a person to impede the spread of saliva or other fluids during speaking, coughing, sneezing, or other intentional or involuntary action."
What is a "public place"?
- Indoor spaces of businesses or venues open to the general public, including but not limited to stores, bars and restaurants (see exception 3b), entertainment venues, public meeting spaces, city government buildings, civic centers, etc.
- Transportation services available to the general public, including mass transit, paratransit, taxi, or ride-sharing services.
- Outdoor areas open to the general public where ten or more persons are gathered and unable to maintain a distance of six (6) or more feet between persons not from the same household.
Portions of businesses not accessible to the public are exempt, although employers are encouraged to be mindful of employee's "health, safety and comfort" when making policies for these areas.
All businesses are required to post a notice at public entrances that face coverings are required inside the establishment.
What are the exceptions?
There are limited exceptions to the policy. These include children under two years of age, eating or drinking when not interacting with bartenders, servers, or other customers, medical examinations "to examine or treat the mouth or nasal area", temporarily during hair care services, for the purpose of allowing lip reading or speaking to a large group, and when personal safety is at risk. The ordinance state that:
A face covering or mask shall not be required when wearing such a face covering or mask poses a greater mental or physical health, safety, or security risk, such as when a person has a respiratory disease or condition, has trouble breathing, has a mental disability, is unconscious, is incapacitated, or is unable to remove the face covering without assistance. Under this subsection, a “safety risk” includes external factors, such as:
- persons are working on ladders or at height
- persons are wearing other respiratory protection
- persons are engaging in heavy physical exertion
- persons are operating heavy equipment
- persons are working in an environment where a face covering or mask hinders communications necessary for safety.
Special rules also cover indoor athletic facilities. Users are not required to wear face coverings or masks while actively participating in permitted athletic activities, but staff members who interact with users are required to wear masks.
Voting centers also have a special exemption. Voters are encouraged but not required to wear face coverings in voting centers.
What about schools and churches?
Places of worship are also allowed to set their own policies for face coverings, but "face coverings are strongly encouraged for congregants during worship services, especially while singing or speaking together. Face coverings are also recommended for situations within places of worship where people from different households are unable to or unlikely to maintain a distance of six (6) feet from each other."
Childcare establishments and schools have special rules:
All schools, daycares, and other childcare establishments shall develop their face covering policies and procedures based on guidance and recommendations from public health authorities and the State Department of Education. These policies should weigh the risks and benefits of masks to children, teachers, and other school employees. Parents and guardians should be notified of such policies and procedures. Where the consistent use of face coverings or masks is not possible due to the supervision of multiple children, the facility shall adhere to sanitary, hygienic, and face covering practices to the maximum extent practicable.
What if I don't follow the rules?
Police can write a first warning before a resident in violation would face a fine.
A second offense will result in a fine of $1 to $500, at the discretion of the Municipal Judge, with a maximum of $500. Fines will not go to the city coffers. They will go to designated local health non-profits.
The ordinance passed 4-1 was the same as the proposed ordinance, with the only amendment being to the penalties. The amendment added the warning before a person would have to pay a fine.