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Melton issues order requiring face masks

Selma Mayor Darrio Melton issued an executive order Friday afternoon requiring all citizens to wear a face covering in public places within the City of Selma to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The order becomes effective at 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 27, and will continue until it is rescinded, superseded or amended by Melton.

According to the order, failure to comply could result in a $25 fine.

“Whereas, the Mayor finds that it is in the best interest of the public peace, health, welfare, and safety, and to preserve the lives and protect the health of citizens of the City of Selma, to require that masks, consisting of at least simple cloth face coverings, be worn by persons when interacting in public spaces in the City of Selma,” reads a section of the order.

The order defines a face covering as “a device to cover the nose and mouth of a person to impede the spread of saliva or other fluids during speaking, coughing, sneezing or other intentional or involuntary action.”

The order says medical-grade face masks are not required and that coverings may be fashioned from scarves, bandanas or other suitable fabrics, but must cover the mouth and nose of the wearer.

There are several exceptions to the order – masks are not required in the following scenarios: when outdoors, granted there are less than 10 people and they are at least six feet apart; in the privacy of one’s own or another’s residence; inside one’s own or another’s automobile; during individual outdoor exercise, such as walking or jogging; when working alone in separate offices or non-public workplaces; when in examination rooms of medical or dental offices  when it is necessary to examine or treat the mouth or nasal passages; when wearing a mask poses a risk to one’s physical or mental health; or when eating or drinking at a public restaurant or bar.

On Tuesday, the Selma City Council approved the purchase of 500 masks per ward, which will be distributed in a centralized location by each ward’s council representative.

Selma City Council President Corey Bowie said Melton never mentioned issuing the executive order with the Selma City Council.

Bowie said the council could have collaborated to draft an ordinance.

“We just want to encourage people to wear [masks] to help curb the increased cases in Selma and Dallas County,” said Bowie. “I am in complete agreement [with the ordinance], I just wonder how we’ll be able to enforce it.”

As of Friday afternoon, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) reported nearly 33,717 cases of COVID-19 in the state, as well as 887 deaths as a result of the virus – more than 25 percent of the state’s total cases have been reported in the last two weeks.

Dallas County has seen 728 reported cases of the virus and eight deaths as of Friday afternoon.