Madison mandates face coverings
The Madison City Council unanimously approved a face mask mandate ordinance during a special called meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 19.
“We know that some people might agree and some people might disagree but we know the extent of COVID-19 and the safety of our people,” said Mayor Fred Perriman.
“We know there are times where we have to put politics aside and think about the safety of our people and the safety in our community."
- Mayor Fred Perriman
The mask mandate ordinance went into effect immediately and will stay in effect until it is repealed. The mandate affects all public buildings and businesses. However, businesses have the option to opt out. If a business chooses to opt out, it will have to post a sign that must say, “This location does not consent to enforcement of any local face covering requirements upon this property.”
District 1 councilwoman Carrie Peters-Reid shared from personal experience why she felt the mandate was necessary.
“From a personal standpoint, not from what I heard, but to have COVID-19 in your home, I think that we all need to wear masks,” Peters-Reid said.
Her husband Derrick contracted the virus, and the family was quarantined for 21 days. Peters-Reid said they did not know where he had contracted the virus. She told the story of how he went from having a fever one day to not being able to breathe two days later. She shared about their experience of going to Piedmont Hospital in Athens and painted the picture of the severity of the virus.
“If there has ever been a time that we need to rectify that we are One Morgan let’s be One Morgan together, it takes all of us to try to help alleviate this disease if we can,” Perriman said. “I think we can do it by wearing a mask.”
City Attorney Jimmy Carter spoke to the council about the ordinance.
“It says here that it can only be in counties where you have over 100 cases per 100,000,” Carter said. “If you take us up to 100,000 we have 522, that’s our rate of infection. So we’re permitted to use this order.”
Carter outlined times, places and circumstances when masks would not have to be worn. These include in your car, house, or entity that has the sign displayed that they are opting out of the local mandate.
Carter said being in an enclosed space by yourself or with members of your household is an exception, being outside and socially distanced is an exception, having a religious objection, or eating or drinking are exceptions.
Under the ordinance, if the mask keeps you from being able to do your work, or if a law enforcement officer or financial transaction requires your identification, you may have to take off your mask.
Children under 10 are not required to wear a mask under the ordinance and people who are unable to put on or take off a mask on their own and/or if a licensed health care provider says a mask may aggravate a health condition you have, you are exempt under the ordinance.
Carter told the council that the penalties under the ordinance are civil. Those who do not wear a mask will first be given a warning; if you still do not wear a mask it is a $25 ticket and then $50 for additional tickets.
Councilwoman Chris Hodges asked City of Madison Police Chief Bill Ashburn, who had the virus, to speak to the enforcement of the ordinance.
“I believe that I heard Mr. Carter say that this would be more of a civil thing than criminal and I would think that the city’s intent is to get people to wear their masks when they are in public and be safe, not so much give people citations and fine them,” Ashburn said. “So like the hands free deal we kind of had a grace period on that, of course we have a little more safety issue here with the mask, but I think if our officers are diligent in trying to tell people if they don’t have a mask on that they are required and work on it in that aspect other than so much as a citation then that would not make it such a nightmare.”
Before the public comments, Mayor Perriman and Hodges stressed their hope that the county would follow suit.
Jeanne Dufort and Karen Wibell both spoke to how proud they were of the city for their timeliness in mandating masks. Dufort agreed with Hodges that it is important the county follow suit and stressed the importance of wearing masks especially when it pertains to elections. Wibell brought up a senate bill that also requires signage to prevent businesses from being liable if a person contracts or dies from COVID-19 in their workplace.
Following the vote to approved the mandate but before the meeting was adjourned, Rich Wahl called in.
“This somewhat disappoints me with our city that we are making this idea of One Morgan while basically from what you just clarified this is only going to affect people inside city buildings, non businesses on the sidewalk,” Wahl said. “It doesn’t seem like this is accomplishing much. I think that maybe we should spend our time and effort in encouraging people to wear masks rather than using the power of the government to force people to wear masks because I think that creates the idea that we are not One Morgan, that we going to punish those that believe differently than us.”