During Wednesday evening’s City Council work session, the Council upheld Gov. Kay Ivey’s statewide mask mandate.
The mask mandate will be upheld as a state health order, said City Manager Jim Buston. Violation of the health order will result in a fine between $25 and $500, with each individual offense receiving its own fine.
Arrests are a possibility for multiple refusals to wear a mask, though it is not encouraged, Buston said. Individuals will only be arrested if their repeated refusal to wear a mask constitutes a threat to public health and safety.
The City plans to take an educational approach rather than a punitive one, Buston said. Police officers will carry spare masks and offer them to individuals violating the state health order before issuing them a citation.
Masks will be required in stores and other public gatherings of over ten people within six feet of each other, Buston said. The mandate goes into effect at 5 p.m. on Friday, July 17. It expires on July 31, though Ivey will not hesitate to extend it or implement other restrictions if infection numbers do not decrease.
“There are a lot of people holed up in their homes,” said Ward 6 Council member Bob Parsons. “I hope [the mask mandate] can give these people a sort of comfort.”
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Ward 2 Council member Beth Witten said both the Auburn Downtown Merchants Association and the Auburn Chamber of Commerce support public education for wearing masks in addition to the mask mandate.
Ward 8 Council member Tommy Dawson said he supports the mask mandate. The health order from the state level cleared his concerns over police enforcement and liability.
“This has shown to be a sensitive subject,” said Ward 7 Council member Jay Hovey. “I hope we can count on our constituency and neighbors to continue to be good neighbors.”
Dawson proposed a resolution supporting Ivey’s leadership during Alabama’s fight against COVID-19. Multiple Council members agreed, and a resolution will be proposed no later than the next regularly scheduled Council meeting.
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