VESTAVIA HILLS, Ala. (WIAT) — A face covering requirement is now in place for all of Jefferson County after the Jefferson County Health Officer’s order went into effect Monday evening.
“It is indoor spaces where the general public is interacting with each other and with people that work there and there is a lot of traffic so that includes retail, certain entertainment venues, other places where a lot of people go and there is a lot potential for interactions,” said Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Mark Wilson.
Wilson announced the order last week after a surge in COVID-19 cases continued in the area and across the state.
“This is a preventative measure to keep us from having to do anything else us. I really hope we never get to a point where we are having to reverse course on opening things up. But when you look around the country that’s what has been happening, unfortunately in some other states,” said Wilson.
In addition to indoor businesses, the requirement is also in place for public transportation and ride-sharing services.
Many have asked how the order will be enforced. Wilson is hoping the public will comply. Business owners have been provided signage material to remind neighbors about the requirement.
“We have also asked our local municipalities our mayors to help us back us up on this, help enforce it, but it is going to be up to their discretion as to how they do that,” said Wilson.
Many businesses have already been dealing with restrictions due to COVID-19. Entertainment venues like bowling alleys recently opened up with social distancing measures in place.
“Right now we are currently only using every other lane which allows us for social distancing, so we can only use 17 out of our 34 lanes at the moment,” said Angela Nance, the manager of Vestavia Bowl.
Now, Nance will be adjusting rules for the face covering ordinance.
“You don’t have to bowl with it on and if you are staying at your table with your family, I am sure it is fine, but when you are walking around and when you are encountering other people just to please make sure you have it on,” said Nance.
While the requirement has been in place in the city of Birmingham for more than a month, many neighbors in other communities are not used to wearing masks.
At Piggly Wiggly in Homewood, face coverings will be on hand for customers who do not have one.
“We just want to protect our employees because we are facing over 1,000 people per day and we want to be safe and we want to be safe and be able to serve the community,” said Johnny Miller, the manager of the store.
While some are not happy with the requirement, Wilson believes the measure will slow the spread, save lives, and keep business doors open.
“We have all sorts of laws and regulations on the books that require us to give up personal liberties for public safety or for public health. Seat belts, motorcycle helmets, certain restaurant requirements. The list is very long,” said Wilson.
Right now there is no estimation of how long a face covering requirement might last.
Wilson said leaders continue to monitor the number of positive cases and hospitalizations.