Commission approves resolution encouraging residents to wear face masks, social distance

COLUMBIANA – The Shelby County Commission has expressed its support of the use of face masks and other Alabama Department of Public Health recommendations intended to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The Commission on July 13 voted unanimously in favor of a resolution encouraging county residents to wear face masks when not at home and to practice social distancing as the numbers of COVID-19 cases continue to rise across Alabama.

As of July 10, Shelby County is listed in the “Very High Risk” phase of the ADPH’s color-coded dial based on a measurement system that shows the extent of the COVID-19 situation in regions, counties, cities and communities in the state.

Below Very High Risk, which is coded as red, are High Risk (orange), Moderate Risk (yellow) and Low Risk (green).

“Our goal is to go from red to orange to yellow to green,” Shelby County Emergency Management Agency Supervisor Hub Harvey said, noting the county’s designation is determined by how long it has had rising numbers of positive cases. “The biggest thing is we’ve got to have at least 14 consecutive days that the number of new COVID-19 cases is moving down.”

The resolution states the Commission “strongly encourages following ADPH guidelines to help protect yourself and others by wearing face coverings around people from other households when it is necessary to leave the home and maintaining social distancing of 6 or more feet between persons not from the same household to be in the best interest of public health in Shelby County.”

As indicated by the phrase “strongly encourages,” the resolution is not a mandate because the county does not have the legislative authority to adopt a mandate related to wearing face masks, County Attorney Butch Ellis explained.

“Cities can pass mandates, but the county has no legal authority to do so,” Ellis said. “You don’t have the power to adopt a mandate even if you think it’s a good idea.”

Prior to the commission’s vote on the resolution, County Manager Chad Scroggins said the county provided commissioners with feedback it received from residents in favor of and opposed to wearing face masks.

“We’ve explained to every person this is not a mandate,” Scroggins said of the resolution. “This is a resolution encouraging folks to follow the ADPH guidelines. We’re trying to do everything we can, but it still comes back to personal responsibility.”

In addition to social distancing and wearing face coverings, ADPH guidelines for the Very High Risk phase include avoiding groups of 20 or more people, working from home if possible, utilizing takeout or delivery options from restaurants and eliminating unnecessary travel.

More information can be found by going to Shelbyal.com and clicking on the Very High Risk, COVID-19 Information and Risk Dial buttons.