Birmingham has extended its face covering ordinance through July 3. The ordinance requires all Birmingham residents to wear face coverings in public places to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Face masks are defined by the ordinance as “a device to cover the nose and mouth: to impede the spread of saliva or other fluids during speaking, coughing, sneezing or other intentional or involuntary action.” Medical-grade masks are not required by the ordinance; scarves, bandanas or other fabrics will suffice.
The face covering order has been in effect since May 1. It was initially sponsored by Mayor Randall Woodfin, though he eventually announced he would allow the order to expire at the end of May. The council has twice opted to renew the ordinance anyway, first through June 12 and now through early next month.
The council also has changed the penalty for violating the ordinance, which had drawn a warning from Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall. The original penalty had been a fine of up to $500 and/or up to 30 days in jail, but the council has changed it to an incremental fine structure: $20 for first offenses, $100 for second offenses and $250 for third offenses.
The extension passed despite the vehement opposition of District 2 Councilor Hunter Williams, who called the extension “absolutely ridiculous,” urging residents to continue wearing masks but arguing that the city should not criminalize those who don’t.
“It’s time to let this expire. It’s run its course,” he said. “Either people are going to wear a mask or they’re not. … For us to subject all of the citizens of Birmingham to enhanced interaction with law enforcement as well as fines over a mask that has run its course is absolutely ridiculous and asinine.”
District 8 Councilor Steven Hoyt replied that allowing the ordinance to expire “would be the height of folly” and said that he was “concerned” by Williams’ position. “I just don’t want to be cavalier, and I don’t think it costs us anything to wear a mask,” he said. “We know wearing a mask does save lives.”
Williams was the council’s only dissenting vote.