Gadsden to consider mandatory mask ordinance

Possible mask ordinance in Gadsden

GADSDEN, Ala. (WBRC) - Gadsden’s city council is expected as early as Tuesday to vote on an ordinance that would require some degree of mask wearing in the city.

Council president Cynthia Toles made the announcement at the end of a COVID-19 themed news conference Thursday, held in the council chambers at Gadsden City Hall, in which all of the participants encouraged people to practice social distancing and wear a mask in public as much as possible.

“Yesterday I had a conversation with the mayor, who I asked, would he have a conversation with (city attorney Lee Roberts), to draft us an ordinance for wearing the mask,” said Toles. “We’re looking at having that on pre-council on Tuesday,” she adds, saying it will be up to the council on whether to consider the ordinance in its regular council meeting at 11:00 a.m. that day.

“We’re planning on having an ordinance in place, as soon as possible Tuesday,” Toles added.

The announcement comes two days after council member Thomas Worthy, a retired police officer who says it's a matter of public safety, called for the ordinance. At the news conference he reiterated how much he wanted to see the council vote on the matter.

"It's well due time. We should've had it a long time ago," Worthy said.

Worthy and other council members lamented the issue of mask wearing being based on identity politics instead of public health.

"It's about trying to protect this city and this county. And that's what it's all about. So we're going to do all we can do to get the word out, because our numbers are not going down, the coronavirus is still here," said Worthy.

It comes as a number of other cities in Alabama, including Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Montgomery, Mobile and Decatur, have passed similar laws. Details of Gadsden’s proposed ordinance were not available since it was still being written Thursday.

Most of the news conference was about pleading with Gadsden and Etowah County residents to practice social distancing and mask wearing. Etowah County recorded its 14th death this week, likely that of former Glencoe police chief and council member Johnny Chambers.

The EMA planned to unveil a new campaign, "Mask Up Etowah," which would encourage people to post photos of themselves masked on social media along with the hashtag #maskupetowah.

Corey Ewing, CEO of Gadsden Regional Medical Center, says he's found a number of people are afraid to come to the hospital for other reasons out of fear they'll catch COVID-19. He says there's no reason to worry.

"I'm here to tell you guys that we have precautions in place. Hospitals prepare, we practice for disasters," said Ewing.

“I feel a hundred times safer walking through my hospital,” than through a major retailer, says Sherry Fryman, Chief Nursing Officer at Riverview Regional Medical Center.

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