Mayor could issue order to limit large crowds

By NICOLE SMITH
Posted 4/1/20

Jasper Mayor David O’Mary says he will likely issue an executive order on Thursday or Friday aimed at encouraging social distancing during this time.

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Mayor could issue order to limit large crowds

Posted

Jasper Mayor David O’Mary says he will likely issue an executive order on Thursday or Friday aimed at encouraging social distancing during this time. 

O’Mary told the Daily Mountain Eagle Wednesday afternoon that the executive order would lower the occupancy load of commercial buildings in the city that remain open, such as Home Depot and Walmart.

The mayor explained that occupancy codes are set by fire departments to limit the number of people that should occupy a building at a given time.

In an effort to decrease the spread of COVID-19, mayors in other cities across the country have also issued similar executive orders to limit the number of people who congregate.

O’Mary said the executive order appears to be necessary, considering the large crowds that continue to fill major businesses, despite suggestions for people to stay at home unless necessary.  

“How do you get people’s attention? I don’t know. People have been told time and time again. If you pick up a newspaper, if you look on Facebook, if you’ve watched television, the safeguards that people need to be taking are being ignored by a lot of people,” O’Mary said. “On the other side, there’s a lot of people that are practicing good hygiene and doing the things they’re supposed to do. If we’re going to win this battle, we have got to have a much, much higher level of compliance.”

On March 27, O’Mary closed city parks from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. each day to limit activities and social interaction. If any executive order is issued regarding occupancy, it will be an additional safeguard for the general public as cases of COVID-19 continue to increase in Walker County and the state of Alabama.

As of 3 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, 1,060 cases of COVID-19 had been diagnosed in Alabama. Walker County had 32 confirmed cases.

On Tuesday, White House officials projected that 100,000 to 240,000 deaths will occur across the United States due to COVID-19. Over 25 Alabamians have already perished from the virus.

Gov. Kay Ivey ordered the closure of non-essential businesses on March 28, which resulted in a number of business closures in Jasper. O’Mary said a few businesses were hesitant to close, but by working in conjunction with the Jasper Police Department, all non-essential businesses have been closed in the city until at least April 17.  

“I don’t think they were anything other than well-meaning, but we had to share with them the rules,” O’Mary said of business owners. “We had one that was a little bit challenging, but we worked through that.”

Essential businesses, such as restaurants, remain open in the city for carryout or pickup.

Sales tax receipt tallies won’t be available for a couple of weeks, but O’Mary said revenues could be down by half.

In the days and weeks that follow, O’Mary said he will continue to closely monitor the number of COVID-19 cases reported, and the mayor says he isn’t opposed to working with county officials on issuing a shelter in place order, if public disregard for social distancing continues.  

“I have no reservation at all in taking drastic measures to combat this pandemic,” he said.

O’Mary also confirmed to the Daily Mountain Eagle that no city employees, to his knowledge, have been diagnosed with COVID-19.