By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times
Extending the city’s mandatory face covering ordinance is necessary because the number of COVID-19 coronavirus cases have not decreased, said Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin on Tuesday after the Birmingham City Council extended the ordinance to May 22 from May 15.
“There is still community spread and this virus has the opportunity to spread throughout the city of Birmingham,” said the mayor. “We know that some of the vulnerable population is higher in our city [than statewide] which includes a higher elderly population [in Birmingham], some of those with underlying conditions.”
However, the city’s shelter-in-place curfew which was approved April 30 is no longer in effect.
Woodfin said decisions are based on the best interests of protecting citizens of Birmingham “not necessarily based on what anyone else is doing . . .we’re extending this because those numbers haven’t decreased.”
The extension of the face covering ordinance comes after Gov. Kay Ivey amended her “safer-at-home” order last week to reopen some restaurants, bars, salons, and churches with limits which began May 11.
Even with the extension of the city’s ordinance, there are exceptions for restaurants, bars and breweries where patrons do not have to wear a face covering while eating or drinking.
“Business owners have every right to refuse a customer who comes in without a facial cover the same way they would if a patron came in without a t-shirt or shoes,” Woodfin said. “. . . This is temporary and is a shared sacrifice to protect all citizens, it is not just about you.”
With local businesses reopening the mayor said there is a possibility that six feet of separation or more cannot be maintained and “we need to do the next best thing and that is wear face coverings or masks . . . . this is about making sure you are prepared, safe and doing things to not only protect yourself and your family but your neighbors and fellow community.”
The city also announced Tuesday it has put together a task force report with input from local business owners, health experts and city officials to provide guidelines for the safe reopening of restaurants and bars and other businesses.
“As we reopen restaurants we wanted something informed by local owners and our local health experts so people would have the type of guidelines to go to those places with confidence,” said Josh Carpenter, Director of the city’s Office of Innovation and Economic Opportunity, “… our goal is to make sure the consumers have the confidence they need to go out and continue to purchase food and support these small businesses.”
Those guidelines are available at www.birminghamal.gov/coronavirus.