Face coverings required in Tuscaloosa starting July 6


CW / Carly Farmer

Hannah Saad | @hannah_saad21, Photo Editor

People in Tuscaloosa will be required to wear a face covering in public starting July 6 in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, per an ordinance unanimously passed by the Tuscaloosa City Council on June 30. 

Mayor Walt Maddox said that he would sign the ordinance into law on July 1. The ordinance will last for 30 days unless the council votes to extend the measure before it is set to expire.

The passage of this ordinance comes as confirmed COVID-19 cases in Tuscaloosa and Alabama as a whole have been on the rise. Tuscaloosa County has nearly 2,000 confirmed cases, which places the county fourth in the state behind Jefferson, Montgomery and Mobile Counties. 

In defense of the measure during the meeting, councilmember Kip Tyner said he wished people had taken personal responsibility and decided on their own to wear a face covering. 

“It’s sad that the city has to mandate wearing a mask,” Tyner said. 

Councilmember Lee Busby, whose district includes the University of Alabama, said during the Public Safety Committee meeting on June 23 that he did “not support mandatory face coverings” and he would be hesitant to vote in favor of a measure requiring face coverings to be worn without first canvassing his district to see what the residents thought of requiring face masks. Busby attributed his vote in favor of the ordinance at the June 30 meeting to the “overwhelming, bordering on unanimous” support from the members of his district in support of a measure requiring face coverings in public. 

Masks or other face coverings will be required when interacting in public places in Tuscaloosa. This includes indoor businesses open to the general public, on public transportation, or outside where 10 or more people are present and social distancing cannot be maintained.

Those exempt from wearing a face covering or mask include all children under the age of 2, children under the age of 8 with parental discretion, or those whose personal safety would be jeopardized by wearing a mask. The ordinance classifies people who would be at risk wearing a mask as those working on ladders, wearing other respiratory equipment, engaging in heavy physical exertion, operating heavy equipment or working in environments where wearing a face mask would hinder communications necessary for safety. 

Masks are not required when eating, drinking or receiving a medical or haircare service that would require the removal of a face covering. Face coverings are also not required when a person who has hearing impairments needs to see the mouth of a person speaking. People will not need to wear face coverings when working out in an indoor gym or athletic facility, and they do not need to wear face coverings in private clubs, provided that social distancing is attainable. 

This decision from the Tuscaloosa City Council comes on the same day that Alabama Governor Kay Ivey extended the Safer at Home order to July 31. The order was originally set to expire on July 3. The order recommends, but does not require, people to wear a face covering or mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

The ordinance was introduced during the meeting as part of the council’s suspended rules of procedure, and a written version of the ordinance was not made available to the public prior to the meeting. However, the ordinance was read aloud at the city council meeting, and the ordinance was made available on the city of Tuscaloosa’s website after the meeting ended.