The Decatur City Council this evening passed an ordinance that requires face coverings in specified public settings, with a maximum $500 fine for violations, in an effort to control the spread of the coronavirus.
City Attorney Herman Marks said the city clerk has 48 hours to present the council-approved ordinance to the mayor, who then has 10 days to amend it, veto it or approve it.
Mayor Tab Bowling, who has said he opposed the ordinance, has not vetoed a vote during his first term. It takes a two-thirds vote of the council to override an ordinance veto.
After the vote, Bowling said he would take the full 10 days before signing the ordinance, delaying when it can take effect.
The vote came as Decatur Morgan Hospital reported it had 24 confirmed COVID-19 patients, and another 29 patients awaiting COVID-19 test results.
The ordinance includes some exceptions, but when it takes effect it will generally requires face coverings inside businesses and venues open to the general public, in city government buildings, and in bars and restaurants except while eating or drinking. Face coverings are also required while people are using public transit, taxis and ride-sharing services.
Face coverings are only required in outdoor areas where 10 or more people are gathered and they are not able to maintain a 6-foot distance between people of different households.
Children age 2 and under are not required to wear a face covering, and parents have discretion on whether wearing a mask is effective for children 8 and under. Face coverings can be removed when necessary during medical procedures and hair care services. The coverings also are not required if masks create a health or safety risk.
The ordinance does not apply to places of worship, indoor athletic facilities or voting centers. It does not apply to private clubs and gatherings where a 6-foot distance is maintained between people of different households.
The ordinance will go into effect "at 5 p.m. on the day after its publication," and will remain in effect until state and local health officials advise that a change or discontinuation of the ordinance is warranted. "However," according to the ordinance, "the council will review and seek guidance whether this ordinance requires amendment at least every 30 days."
Read more in Thursday's edition of The Decatur Daily.