MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Mobile and Tuscaloosa have joined the list of Alabama cities requiring face masks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, as cities look for ways to curb rising infections and hospitalizations.
The Mobile City Council voted 6-1 on Wednesday for an ordinance requiring facial coverings in public places for the next 30 days.
“At the end of the day what we want is to make sure our businesses stay open and our citizens stay healthy,” Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson said.
Birmingham and surrounding Jefferson County, Montgomery, Tuscaloosa and Selma already have mask ordinances because of the pandemic, which health officials say is worsening in Alabama as hospitalizations increase and the percentage of positive virus test results rises.
Several people spoke out against the Mobile ordinance during public comments and Stimpson said he knows some people may take offense at the step. But he said officials are seeking ways to stop the spread of the virus, adding police officers have been given masks to distribute if someone needs one.
“We would much rather have our officers handing out face masks instead of citations,” Stimpson said.
Gov. Kay Ivey has declined to enact a statewide mask law, saying it couldn’t be enforced, but she extended other, less-restrictive rules that have been in place.
More than 38,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed statewide, and at least 947 people have died of the illness. The state on Wednesday had nearly 800 people in state hospitals with COVID-19, the highest number since the pandemic began.
Tuscaloosa City Council members unanimously approved a mask requirement during a meeting Tuesday, news outlets reported.
The Tuscaloosa council acted after Fire Chief Randy Smith told members that an investigation showed some students in the area had attended parties over the past few weeks despite knowing they had tested positive for the virus.
“We thought that was kind of a rumor at first. We did some additional research. Not only did the doctors’ offices help confirm it but the state confirmed they had also had the same information,” Smith said in remarks shown on Facebook live.
At least some of the students were from out of state, Smith said, indicating they were in college. But officials did not disclose what schools the students attended. Three colleges are located in Tuscaloosa.
Decatur officials have delayed a decision on a mask requirement.
The coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but it can be more serious and even fatal for older adults and those with other health problems.
The Alabama Department of Corrections reported Wednesday that a seventh inmate died after testing positive for COVID-19. The prison system said 68 inmates and 166 employees have tested positive for COVID-19. One employee has died.