Council votes to amend “shelter in place” ordinance, extend face-covering order until May 29

The Birmingham City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to amend the city’s “shelter in place” ordinance, which lifts the public safety curfew, but keeps in place restrictions on occupancy and social gatherings where social distancing guidelines cannot be met.

The Council also voted to extend the city’s ordinance requiring face coverings in public spaces until Friday, May 29.

According to the amendment, businesses must comply with the order of the State Health Officer that was issued on May 8 — those guidelines can be found here.

Health experts with the National Foundation for Infectious Disease maintain that facial coverings are highly successful in reducing the spread of COVID-19.

During the meeting, Council President William Parker said the Council would be determining a plan of action as it relates to increasing the number of test sites, COVID-19 educational campaigns, and applying for portions of the $1.8 billion in federal relief funding that was approved by the Alabama Legislature last week.

Councilor Steven Hoyt said the measures approved by the Council on Tuesday are focused on educating the public on the dangers of COVID-19 as opposed to being punitive restrictions.

“This is to raise awareness and the seriousness of wearing a mask,” Hoyt said. “There are still folks that are being very cavalier about wearing face coverings in public. This ordinance just underlines how serious this situation is. The numbers haven’t gone down in Jefferson County. I want to see an all out campaign on why this is important and how serious this virus is. We have to do whatever we can to raise awareness in order to save as many lives as possible.”

Councilor John Hilliard echoed this sentiment, saying he believes this is not the right time to relax restrictions.

“I know people are getting restless, but we can’t just relax the rules so we can get out of the house,” Hilliard said. “Our city is at risk. There are a good number of elderly citizens in my community and we need to be taking every opportunity we can to educate them on the dangers posed to them by this public health crisis. You can’t legislate morality. But we need to all be doing the right thing to protect our families, friends and neighbors right now.”

Tweets from The Birmingham City Council in Birmingham, Alabama