Madison County Health Officer Dr. Karen Landers has issued a health order requiring most people to wear face coverings in public places in Madison County to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. The order takes effect on July 7 at 5 p.m.
“We need to do all we can to limit the spread of COVID-19,” State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said. “Until we have a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19, wearing a face covering in public is a key measure we have available to prevent transmission of the virus.”
This health order has the unanimous support of the Madison County Board of Health, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, Madison Mayor Paul Finley, and County Commission Chair Dale Strong.
“This is a simple math problem,” said Mayor Battle. “Since June 16, the number of positive cases in Madison County has tripled, and the number of hospitalizations has increased 660 percent. We need to take precautionary measures, such as wearing face covers, distancing 6 feet, and handwashing to provide a safe environment for our citizens.” Finley said, “Since day one we as elected officials have said we would work to find the balance of personal versus economic health. While personal responsibility is still paramount, our dramatic rising numbers dictate this step be taken to continue to support all citizens’ safety.”
A face covering is defined as a device to cover the nose and mouth of a person to impede the spread of saliva or other fluids during speaking, coughing, sneezing, or other intentional or involuntary action. Medical-grade masks are not required. Coverings may be made from scarves, bandanas, or other fabrics.
COVID-19 infection is usually spread to others through a respiratory route, and this can occur without symptoms. Studies illustrate how COVID-19 can be spread through speaking, coughing, and sneezing–including by asymptomatic people. Face coverings create a barrier between a person’s face and the air around him or her. Face coverings prevent people from spreading respiratory droplets and can prevent them from acquiring the virus from others.
Face coverings are required in the following Madison County locations:
- Indoor spaces of businesses or venues open to the public, including stores, bars, restaurants, entertainment venues, public meeting spaces, or government buildings.
- Transportation services available to the public, including mass transit, paratransit, taxi, or ride-sharing services.
- Outdoor areas open to the public where 10 or more persons are gathered and where people are unable to maintain a distance of 6 or more feet between persons not from the same household.
Exceptions to wearing face coverings or masks include:
- Children age 2 and under.
- Persons while eating or drinking.
- Patients in examination rooms of medical offices, dental offices, clinics or hospitals where there examination of the mouth or nasal area is necessary.
- Customers receiving hair care services, temporary removal of face coverings when needed to provide hair care.
- Occasions when wearing a face covering poses a significant mental or physical health, safety or security risk. These include worksite risks.
- Although not mandated, face coverings are strongly recommended for congregants at worship services and for situations where people from different households are unable to or unlikely to maintain a distance of 6 feet from each other.
- When effective communication is needed for hearing-impaired persons and those speaking to a large group of people, provided the speaker can stay at least 6 feet away from other persons.
- Indoor athletic facilities. Patrons are not required to wear face coverings while actively participating in permitted athletic activities, but employees in regular interaction with patrons are required to wear face coverings or masks.
- Private clubs and gatherings not open to the public and where a consistent 6-foot distance between persons from different households is maintained.
Parents, guardians and caregivers must ensure the proper masking of children over age 2 in public places, ensure face coverings do not pose a choking hazard for children and can be worn safely without obstructing a child’s ability to breathe. Childcare establishments and schools are to develop their face covering policies and procedures.
All businesses and venues open to the public must provide a notice stating that face coverings are required inside the establishment. Signage is required at all public entrances
Dr. Harris said, “Wearing a face covering can help keep family, co-workers, and community safe. This is the simplest act of kindness you can take for yourself, your family and your community, especially for those who are at high risk of contracting the virus.”
The Alabama Department of Public Health advises these actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19:
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds
- Social distance by staying 6 feet away from others
- Avoid people who are sick
- Stay home if you can; work remotely if possible
- Cover your mouth and nose with a face covering when around others
- Cover coughs and sneezes
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces
- Monitor your health
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides instructions about the use of face coverings at cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html.
For more information, visit alabamapublichealth.gov.