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County commission passes resolution requiring masks

By Mark Rogers

A resolution passed Tuesday by the Lowndes County Commission asks citizens to wear a mask in public at all times.

The resolution was discussed during Monday’s meeting, which was continued until Tuesday to allow County Attorney Hank Sanders to draft it. On Tuesday is passed.

Lowndes County Sheriff Chris West urged county officials to do what they could to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“I wanted to approach the Commission this morning in reference to our COVID-19 cases,” West said. “As all of you are well aware of, we lead the nation in cases in regards to our population of people that we have in our county. It gives our office concern because we have a lot of senior citizens that are homebound during the day and in some shape or form their children or grandchildren still see about them – we’re in rural America. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to get these numbers pushed down some – maybe even save a few lives. I want to make a proposal or at least give you something to think about.”

West noted to the Commission that many areas had implemented mask requirements.

“Especially Mayor Reed over in Montgomery County – they passed a mandatory resolution where if you are in the city limits of Montgomery, you basically have to wear a mask,” West said. “I’m asking the county commission if they could pass something similar in nature to ask our residents to do this for 60 days to see if we can get our numbers down.”

West said he had some concerns about asking the commission for a resolution.

“Because of our current political situation, it has become a politicized issue with the wearing of the face masks,” West said. “I think we here in Lowndes County – we love all of our people – we want to do what’s best for all of our people. Some of our citizens are going to say that it sounds like a politicized issue. I’m just asking the county commission that if that arises, let’s try not to politicize it and let’s look at what’s best – especially for our seniors.”

West said he had been studying research on COVID-19.

“It’s starting to mutate a little bit, so now it’s even attacking little children,” West continued. “There’s really no certain age group. You can be as healthy as a bull and still come down with it and end up dead. Lowndes County is listed No. 1 in the nation as far as cases in terms of our population. I love for Lowndes County to make the news, but I don’t like when we make negative news – and this is negative news.”

Attorney Hank Sanders said he would draft what he could.

“Cities have authority to be able to do face masks, counties do not have authority,” he said. “I’ve spent considerable time trying to find that authority. Sumter County passed a resolution on Friday – they called an emergency meeting asking folks to do it. They didn’t put any enforcement language in there because they didn’t have any authority to do it. It can definitely be drawn up and drawn up in some deal that would encourage people.”

Below is Lowndes County’s resolution:

LOWNDES COUNTY RESOLUTION 6-29-20

            WHEREAS, the Lowndes County Commission recognizes the emergency declarations of the President of the United States and the Governor of the State of Alabama related to the spread of COVID-19 disease in our community; and,

 

WHEREAS, COVID-19 is a disease caused by a novel coronavirus, previously unknown in humans, and causes upper-respiratory tract illnesses that can range from mild to severe, spread quickly, and may cause death, particularly in older adults and persons with certain chronic medical conditions; and,

 

WHEREAS, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic as of March 15, 2020; and

 

WHEREAS, states of emergency have been declared by the President of the United States, the Governor of Alabama and the County of Lowndes and continue to exist; and

 

WHEREAS, Lowndes County finds that an emergency of unprecedented size resulting from the natural cause of community spread of a novel human coronavirus disease, COVIDS-19, has occurred in the County of Greene; and,

 

WHEREAS, as of June 28, 2020, Alabama has identified 36,682 cases of coronavirus, including 452 cases in Lowndes County; and,

 

WHEREAS, as of June 28, 2020, Alabama has 905 recorded deaths attributed to COVID-19, with _____ of those deaths occurring in Lowndes County; and,

 

WHEREAS, Lowndes County recognizes that it is critical to continue maintaining 6- feet social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19, but that the additional use of simple cloth face coverings, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control, can further aid in slowing the spread of the virus by reducing the chances of symptomatic and asymptomatic people transmitting the virus to others; and,

 

WHEREAS, in reopening certain businesses, places of work, and venues and other activities in Lowndes County, it is in the best interest of public health for individuals to continue to use social distancing and the additional precaution of face coverings or masks while in public contact with other persons; and,

 

WHEREAS, it continues to be extremely important to protect individuals from contracting the virus; and

 

WHEREAS, members of households with vulnerable individuals need to use all reasonable precautions to avoid potential exposure to the virus; and,

 

WHEREAS, numerous medical experts and medical personnel in Alabama support the use of face coverings and masks to mitigate the spread of the virus; and,

 

WHEREAS, the Lowndes County Commission finds that it is in the best interest of the public peace, health, welfare, and safety, and to preserve the lives and protect the health of citizens of Lowndes County, to require that masks, consisting of at least simple cloth face coverings, be worn by persons when interacting in public spaces in Lowndes County.

 

SECTION 1.

 

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT ORDERED by the Lowndes County Commission that face coverings or “masks” shall be required in public places within the County of Lowndes to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus disease, known as COVID-19.

 

(a)DEFINITIONS:

 

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 outdoor space, personal/private residences, or motor vehicles.

 

(b)Face coverings or masks shall be worn at all times by persons over the age of two years old and who can medically tolerate doing so when in public places within the County of Lowndes where there are 10 or more people present. The requirement applies to employees, customers, and clients of businesses where feasible within the County.

 

(c)Face coverings or masks shall be worn in outdoor spaces when there are 10 or more people within 6 feet of one another.

 

SECTION 2.

 

A face covering or mask is not required in the following settings and circumstances:

 

(a)When outdoors (granted there are less than 10 people and they are at least 6 feet apart);

 

(b)In the privacy of one’s own residence or another’s residence;

 

(c)Within one’s own motor vehicle or another’s motor vehicle;

 

(d)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. For the purposes of this subsection, “exercise” includes other forms of physical exertion, whether for recreation or work includes where unrestricted breathing is needed to perform the activity.

 

(e)Persons working alone in separate office spaces or in non-public workplaces where there is more than adequate social distancing area, based on the size of and number of people in the space (indoors or out of doors) need not wear a face covering or mask at all times.  However, such persons must be prepared to do and wear a face covering or mask when interacting with others in groups of 10 or more persons or in groups of any size where social distancing of more than six (6) feet cannot be consistently maintained.

 

(f)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.

 

(g)When wearing a face covering or mask 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. For purposes of this subsection, “safety risk” shall include extern al factors, such as, but not limited to, where wearing other respiratory protection, heavy physical exertion or operating heavy equipment or operating in an environment where a face covering or mask hinders communications.  However, employers are encouraged to structure work to promote social distancing and limit close contact as much as possible within workplaces where face coverings or masks may pose such risks.

 

(h)When eating or drinking in public at a restaurant, bar or other food or beverage establishment operating under conditions required by the state health officer’s order. A mask or face covering must be worn when entering and exiting any such establishment.

 

SECTION 3.

 

This resolution shall become effective at 5:00 P.M. on Wednesday, July 1, 2020, and continuing until it is rescinded, superseded, or amended.