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Birmingham’s mandatory face mask ordinance ends on Friday

By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times

The City of Birmingham will not extend its mandatory face covering ordinance beyond midnight on Friday, May 29, but that doesn’t mean citizens need to become complacent, said Mayor Randall Woodfin.

“Public health leaders say covering your nose and mouth is a critical tool to help reduce the spread of coronavirus. I urge everyone to keep social distancing, wear face coverings public and do what you can to limit the spread,” Woodfin said during the City Council meeting on Tuesday.

He said the ordinance, which has been in place since May 1, raised the importance of wearing a face covering when in public and staying at least six feet from other people.

Even though the ordinance expires on Friday, city employees and visitors to city facilities will still be required to wear face coverings.

Councilor Hunter Williams, a vocal critic of the ordinance said he is glad to see it expire.

Williams said ordinance wasn’t an effective way for the public at large deal with the virus. “The best way is education, letting people know the risks associated with being in a confined space. Because of this ordinance there is a large amount of confusion… there is a misconception that a mask will help the individual from getting sick who is not sick; it is only to help prevent the spread of a virus to another person.”

Still, Williams believes that masks do have a place for those who feel comfortable wearing them.

“It does not mean people should not wear masks or if they are not comfortable, leave their homes, sometimes adults need to think for themselves and everything cannot be mandated by law,” he said. “As adults, make the best decisions, if you don’t feel comfortable going into a crowded place if you see people not wearing masks, by all means, don’t go in that place.”

While Williams believe the ordinance should expire, some councilors believe it should not.

“I would like to see this [ordinance] to the end of the year and just kind of see where we are,” said Councilor Steven Hoyt. “I think these 30 or 40 days is not working and what we have to do is drive it home. We have to take some things in our own hands and I think the city needs to come up with a plan and a budget to assist these other entities that have the responsibility of educating the public and providing some means of testing and those kinds of things.”

Ending the face covering ordinance is unfortunate, said Councilor Valerie Abbott.

“I think it is premature to give up, but I realize there are so many people who are scoffing at the idea of masks and talking trash about it . . . but I think we should be listening to the people that actually know what they are talking about regarding this pandemic,” she said. “It’s not over, people are still catching this [coronavirus] and there are so many people who aren’t paying any attention.”

Abbott said she will continue to wear her face mask. “I don’t think that we’re completely out of the woods yet,” she said.

Updated at 2:17 p.m. on 5/27/2020 to clarify the city’s face mask ordinance.