Resolution ‘strongly urges’ use of face masks in city

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JASPER - Jasper City Council members unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday morning that strongly recommends people in Jasper wear face masks while in public. 

The recommendation comes in light of the recent surge of COVID-19 cases in the state. 

Since March, there have been almost 1,000 cases reported in Walker County and more than 44,000 statewide. There have been 25 deaths reported in the county, more than 1,000 throughout the state. 

Current figures do not indicate how many have fully recovered from the virus. 

Currently, it’s just a recommendation that people wear masks in the city, Mayor David O’Mary said. Should cases continue to rise in the city and county, the mayor said a mandate could be issued.

The recommendation urges that masks be worn in any indoor space or business or venue open to the general public, including stores, bars and restaurants, entertainment venues, public meeting spaces, government buildings, civic centers and public transportation. It also specifies that masks should be worn in outdoor areas open to the general public where 10 or more people are gathered and unable to maintain six-foot social distancing.

“Certainly, this makes sense to me,” O’Mary said, “to encourage our people to practice cautionary measures that have been given to us to safeguard against this virus.”

O’Mary said he hopes people in Jasper will comply with the recommendation. “Only time will tell,” he said. 

Council member Gary Cowen — a former physician — said the American Medical Association, American Nursing Association and American Hospital Association have all recommended the use of face masks to prevent the transmission of the virus.

“When you’re looking at face mask coverings, you’re not being scared by wearing face masks,” Cowen said, “you’re trying to treat your neighbor properly. Wearing a face mask does not signal that you’re afraid of the disease, it signals that you love your neighbor and you respect your neighbor enough to try to protect them.”

O’Mary said late Tuesday afternoon that officials from Walker Baptist Medical Center overwhelmingly support the city’s recommendation. 

In other business, council members:

•heard O’Mary read a proclamation for COVID-19 Awareness Day in the city.

“All of us are aware of the impact COVID-19 globally,” O‘Mary said in reading the proclamation. 

•accepted a $1,000 donation from the Walker County Humane Society for a dog box for the Jasper Police Department’s animal control vehicle.

•adopted a resolution to appoint city clerk Kathy Chambless as the election manager for the 2020 Municipal Election. 

The appointment was necessary because O’Mary is seeking re-election as mayor.

•approved a request to donate a 2004 Ford Crown Victoria to the Yerkwood Volunteer Fire Department to use for medical calls.

•approved a request by city purchasing agent Derleda Abrom to purchase a transit van for the city’s animal shelter.

•approved a request to purchase ballistic vests for the Jasper Police Department.

•adopted a resolution to place two properties under the city’s nuisance abatement ordinance.

•introduced an ordinance to rezone a 1.5-acre of land at 2200 Gamble Avenue from B-T (business transition) to B-1 (neighborhood business).

•introduced an ordinance to rezone a .38-acre property at 1310 22nd Street West from R-2 (single family residential) to R-3 (affordable housing).

•gave permission to proceed with vacating an alley between 18th and 19th streets and 11th and 12th avenues.

•heard from O’Mary, who said the city has lost two city employees in Tom McDonald and Jonny Duncan, who both recently passed away. 

“This has been very unsettling to our street department employees,” O’Mary said. “These two individuals were fine people. The city has lost two good folks, and I’ve lost two good friends. It makes me sad.”

•heard from O’Mary, who said the city has little control to stop a fair that’s being held in the parking lot at the Jasper Mall.

O’Mary said Kissell Entertainment purchased a business license in early March — prior to the COVID19 pandemic — to host the fair in the city, and the Alabama Department of Public Health has approved the event. Additionally, it’s being held on private property. 

“I shut it down when I first heard of it and said there’s no way that could go forward,” O’Mary said, citing the current pandemic. 

Officials from Kissell Entertainment then met with city officials, and “in their own subtle way made it clear that we couldn’t do anything about it,” O’Mary said. 

Kissell Entertainment, O’Mary said, does has strict guidelines that must be followed, and local law enforcement can shut down the fair if those guidelines aren’t followed. “And that’s going to be looked at,” he said. “It’s going to be under close scrutiny. There’s no question it’s shocking to see a carnival set up in the city under the circumstances.”