Dothan Mayor Mark Saliba

Dothan Mayor Mark Saliba addresses the media during a Joint Information Center press conference in March concerning new updates in the COVID-19 pandemic at the Dothan/Houston County EMA office.

As many Alabama cities pass face mask ordinances, area leaders share concern about the lack of face mask use among the general public, but some feel that mandates would be difficult to enforce.

Dothan Mayor Mark Saliba said an ordinance would have to be approved by the city commission and enforced by local police.

“There are a lot of other things that the police department needs to be doing,” he said. “I’m not sure if that’s a good way to go as well, for that reason.”

Saliba and Enterprise Mayor William Cooper said they are waiting to hear Gov. Kay Ivey’s recommendations on Friday to make official decisions about how to move forward.

“We’ve kind of got that on hold,” Cooper said. “Right now, we haven’t gotten to that point … As it stands now, it has not gotten on our agenda.”

The current public health order, which was last updated May 21, includes the following guidelines:

» Requires employees of restaurants, gyms, salons, and other businesses to wear masks when interacting with the public.

» Prohibits “all non-work related gatherings of any size, including drive-in gatherings,that cannot maintain a consistent 6-foot distance between persons from different households.”

» Limits retail businesses to 50% of their usual occupancy and requires them to enforce social distancing and frequent sanitation of surfaces.

» Encourages everyone to wear a mask and maintain social distancing when going out in public

The “Safer at Home” order is set to expire on Friday at 5 p.m., at which point Ivey is expected to announce whether to extend the order and/or offer new recommendations in conjunction with the Alabama Department of Public Health.

“At that point, we’ll decide whether or not we feel like it needs to be stricter,” Saliba said. “We depend on them to provide the most accurate information on the health crisis.”

Cooper said he has considered following in the footsteps of larger Alabama cities, but nothing is on the council’s agenda for next week.

“This is something that has kind of put us in a situation that we’ve never been in before,” Cooper said. “What we do ask of people, face masks or not, is we ask everyone to be safe and stay their distance. One day we’ll be able to say we overcame this dreadful virus.”

Montgomery and Jefferson counties, and the city of Birmingham have orders requiring face masks in public places. The mayor of Selma issued a similar order on Friday. Mayors of Mobile and Decatur indicated their city councils will discuss the idea.

While city leaders are not sure if mandates are the proper next step, all encourage their citizens to wear masks to help contain the spread of the virus.

“Really, we just want all the citizens to consider this is a serious, contagious virus,” Saliba said. “Even if you may not have a family member that’s been affected by it, there are a lot that have been.

“We continue to use the guidelines that are there for good common sense to control the virus spread in our community. The goal is to keep our hospitals from getting full of people with COVID-related health issues.”

Ozark Mayor Bob Bunting said the rise in cases over the last several weeks should be a major concern to everyone.

“I truly believe we all can do better, to include yours truly. We don’t want to return to what we lived with for several weeks in March and April or have protective procedures mandated,” Bunting said. “Wearing a mask when you are around others is one way we can protect ourselves as well as family and friends. I do not like wearing a mask, and often times I fail to put mine on even when it’s in my pocket. I pledge to do better and I ask all of Ozark to do better.”

ADPH’s COVID-19 surveillance dashboard reports 10,425 cases have been confirmed in Alabama in the last 14 days out of 36,682 cases since March.

Barbour and Covington counties have seen the largest surge out of Wiregrass counties in the last 14 days, according to ADPH’s latest update on Monday.

Barbour has had 80 new cases, up 13.5% in the last two weeks, and Covington has had 127, up 14% in the same time period.

In Houston County, there have been 111 new cases, up 3% in the last two weeks; 21 new cases in Henry County, up 4.75%; 59 in Geneva, up almost 3%; 54 in Dale, up almost 5%; 54 in Coffee, up 5.75%; and 55 in Pike, up 8%.

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