Birmingham City Council extends mandatory face mask ordinance until May 29

Birmingham City Council extends mandatory face mask ordinance until May 29
Help the Cleveland Clinic contain the spread of germs in the community. (Source: Button Counter)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - UPDATE: Birmingham City Council is extending the mandatory face mask ordinance until May 29.

Mayor Woodfin called the extension of the face mask ordinance a way all of us can help stop the spread of COVID-19.

The Birmingham City Council voted to amend the mandatory face covering ordinance in effect until May 15.

The updated ordinance focuses on requirements concerning offices, job sites, children and daycare facilities.

While the ordinance provides an exemption for children under the age of two, it also clarifies requirements for children eight years old and younger. Parents, guardians and caregivers of children eight years old or younger should exercise judgment regarding the ability of those children to consistently wear a face covering or mask.

Daycares and other childcare establishments shall provide parents with information on the facility’s procedures for use of face coverings or masks. Where the consistent use of face coverings or masks are not possible due to the supervision of multiple children, the facility should adhere to sanitary, hygienic and face covering practices to the maximum extent practicable.

Additional changes include identifying exemptions due to safety risks at work sites. The ordinance details exemptions where a face covering may pose a risk to people:

  • Working on ladders or at height
  • Wearing other respiratory protection
  • Heavy physical exertion
  • Operating heavy equipment
  • Working in an environment where a face covering or mask hinders communications

In such cases where there are exemptions, employers are encouraged to structure work to promote social distancing and limit close contact as much as possible.

The ordinance also specifies people do not need to wear a face covering while working alone in separate office spaces or in non-public workplaces where there is more than adequate social distancing, based on the size of and number of people in the space.

People should be prepared to put on a face covering when interacting with others, particularly in groups of 10 or more people or where social distancing cannot be maintained.

Exemptions identified in the original ordinance remain in place, including:

  • Exercise
  • People receiving medical or dental examinations
  • Physical and mental health and safety reasons

ORIGINAL: The Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to require people to wear face coverings in public.

The ordinance passed 8-1 with a no vote coming from Councilor Hunter Williams, who called the item back up after a compromise could not be reached around sunset dates and enforcement.

The new ordinance, submitted by Mayor Randall Woodfin, is designed to help fight the spread of COVID-19.

Mayor Woodfin said that while the state may be taking steps toward seeing numbers drop in the Covid-19 cases, he is still concerned and is requiring every citizen to wear masks to help stop the spread of the infectious disease.

“I want to make it clear. People need to take this seriously because we are not out of the woods, and I think this is the right thing to do from a public safety and health stand point,” Woodfin said.

One Birmingham man told WBRC Fox6 News the new ordinance is needed.

“Meaning like, it’s safety toward yourself and other as well for something you can’t see by eye," Rashad Walker said.

Mayor Woodfin expects the police department will have a grace period to educate people before giving them fines. Employers are not required to provide masks for employees.

Part of the ordinance reads “it continues to be extremely important to protect vulnerable individuals from contracting the virus and such persons should continue to maintain strict social distancing, including sheltering at home, during early phases of reopening.”

Exceptions to the ordinance include:

  • Face coverings are not required to be worn over the face during individual outdoor exercise, for example, walking or jogging, but must be worn when encountering and interacting with groups of other people in a park or other public place.
  • Children two years of age and under, as face coverings or masks may pose a risk of choking, strangulation or suffocation to infants and young toddlers. Carriers and strollers with coverings that allow the child to breathe comfortably are alternatives for infants and young toddlers. Parents and guardians shall be responsible for ensuring proper masking of children over the age of two years when in public but must ensure that the face covering does not pose a choking hazard for children and can be safely worn without obstructing a child’s ability to breathe. Parents and guardians shall exercise judgment and avoid bringing children not wearing masks into public places, especially where contact with vulnerable individuals is expected.
  • Patients in examination rooms of medical or dental offices or clinics or hospitals where there is a necessity to examine or treat the mouth or nasal area, subject to the direction of the medical or dental professionals in charge of the office, clinic or hospital.
  • When wearing a face covering poses a greater mental or physical health, safety or security risk such as anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cover without assistance.

Business owners, managers and supervisors will be expected to ensure employees and visitors observe the requirement in their place of business. Businesses will not be required to provide face coverings for employees.

Failure to comply with the ordinance is punishable by a fine of up to $500 and/or up to 30 days in the municipal jail.

Here is a statement from Councilor Hunter Williams, chair of the Public Safety Committee: “I am personally for wearing face coverings and wear one myself when I’m going to grocery stores and other public venues. They have been proven very effective in preventing virus transmission for asymptomatic carriers. I do think that allowing a $500 fine or 30 days in the city jail to a parent whose three-year-old child refuses to wear a mask is excessive. This pandemic has brought on uncertainty at every level. There is no playbook for the medical providers or for government institutions. However we still have the constitution. When the government takes power from the citizens it is somewhere in between extremely hard and impossible for those rights to be restored to the citizens. Instead of legislating common sense we need to lead by example. As for those who are especially vulnerable, we urge them to remain at home as to not come in contact with any illness at this time.”

Here are the Definitions in the ordinance:

Face covering or mask: A device to 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. Medical grade masks are not required; coverings may be fashioned from scarves, bandanas or other suitable fabrics. The mask must cover the mouth and nose of the wearer.

Public place: Any place other than an individual’s home or personal vehicle; provided, however, that face coverings or masks should be worn when interacting with someone other than a member of the household at home or when traveling with someone who is not a member of the household.

Note: These restrictions could be more lax in a restaurant where people are eating.

Vulnerable individuals: Elderly individuals or individuals with serious underlying health conditions, including high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma, and those whose immune system is compromised such as by chemotherapy for cancer and other conditions requiring such therapy.

The ordinance takes effect May 1.

Also Tuesday Attorney General Steve Marshall Issued a statement regarding municipal use of power in the wake of the amended State Health Order

“As the State begins to phase out of the stay-at-home order, municipalities are wrestling with individual and, in some cases, unique decisions regarding the preservation of the health and safety of their residents. In light of today’s announcement, some municipalities have already expressed their intent to impose or maintain more restrictive orders than the State. Though Alabama law grants municipalities broad ‘police powers’ when it comes to protecting the public health and safety, these powers must be exercised within constitutional parameters. Municipalities are thus strongly advised to carefully balance the constitutional implications of imposing and enforcing more restrictive safety measures against the need for such measures. As case law tells us, the broadness of these police powers is not a license to abuse them.”

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