In response to a growing number of COVID-19 cases, Health Officer Dr. Bernard Eichold has issued an order requiring the wearing of face coverings in public places in all unincorporated, non-policed areas of Mobile County that will take effect Friday, July 3.
The order comes a day after a controversial vote of the Mobile City Council that created a masking requirement in most public spaces throughout Port City and its extended police jurisdiction. While Eichold’s order on Thursday expands a similar requirement to the unincorporated areas of the county, it does not make it applicable countywide just yet.
According to the Mobile County Health Department (MCHD), local officials have opted to let cities implement municipal ordinances rather than issuing a blanket requirement because cities have police forces that are better equipped to enforce such a masking requirement.
The city of Prichard is already set to consider an ordinance similar to Mobile’s and Eichold has asked leaders in Citronelle, Creola, Mt. Vernon, Semmes, Satsuma, Saraland, Chickasaw and Bayou la Batre do the same in order to slow the spread of the disease.
In a statement Thursday, Eichold said State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris had given his approval to the masking requirements in Mobile County, which still has the highest number of deaths from COVID-19 and has more recorded cases than most counties in Alabama.
“In an effort to work with a similar order issued by the City of Mobile that goes into effect on Friday, we are issuing this health order,” Eichold said. “We are hoping all municipalities across Mobile County will join this effort.”
Earlier this week, all 11 mayors of cities in Mobile County contributed to a letter of support for the efforts to contain the COVID-19 led by the Unified Command, which includes Eichold, Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson and Mobile County Commissioner Merceria Ludgoood.
“The threat of COVID-19 remains high and we must do everything we can to limit its spread,” Eichold said. “Until we have a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19, the best weapons we have are wearing face coverings, maintaining a social distance of 6 feet, cleaning high-contact surfaces while also keeping our hands clean.”
According to the new health order, a face covering is defined as a device that covers the nose and mouth of a person that helps impede the spread of saliva or other fluids during speaking, coughing, sneezing or other intentional or involuntary actions.
Medical-grade masks are not required and are, in fact, discouraged because overusing them could deplete the already limited supply that is available to medical professionals treating COVID-19 patients.
Like Mobile’s city mask ordinance, the county includes exceptions for those who are in open spaces where recommended six-foot social distancing can be achieved, children who are 10 years of age or young and persons with substantial mental or physical health conditions.
According to the order, a violation is a criminal misdemeanor and punishable by a fine of anywhere from $25 to $500. More information about the new countywide health order is available at mchd.org.
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