Beginning Monday at 5 p.m., face masks will be required in most indoor spaces open to the public throughout Jefferson County, including individual municipalities. Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Mark Wilson announced the new ordinance during a press conference Friday, citing concerns about the increase in spread of COVID-19.
In recent weeks, Alabama has recorded record-breaking numbers for new daily coronavirus infections and hospitalizations. Wilson said face coverings have been shown to reduce transmission by as much as 50% and could help save lives.
“From a science standpoint, from a medical decision standpoint, and public health standpoint, it’s an easy decision,” Wilson said.
The order requires everyone over the age of eight to cover their faces while inside places including stores, public transit, and restaurants and bars, except while eating and drinking. The order excludes outdoor spaces except when more than 10 people from different households are gathered and they are unable to maintain a distance of six or more feet. It also excludes places of worship, schools and daycares, though Wilson said he strongly encourages people to take precautions when gathering in these places.
Wilson said for several weeks he and other health officials have been using public media campaigns to encourage the use of face coverings, but they have largely been unsuccessful.
“Frankly, I’ve found that we’re losing the support of the public,” he said. “People are getting careless.”
Wilson said he has been reluctant to issue the order and could be criticized for not acting sooner. He said it’s “unfortunate” and “bewildering” that wearing masks has become a controversial topic.
“I’ve heard a lot of concerns from people about their personal liberty,” Wilson said. “I’ve also heard a lot of concerns from people who do not feel safe going into public places and they feel that their personal liberty has been limited because others are not wearing face coverings to keep them safe.”
Wilson said businesses and places open to the public will be required to post signage about the ordinance. He said the order will continue until further notice.
Wilson said the entire state “is in trouble” and he would like to see a similar statewide requirement to slow the spread of COVID-19.