Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed announced an executive order Wednesday mandating the wearing of face masks in the city, a day after the City Council vote on the requirement failed in a 4-4 tie.
Reed said that after listening to warnings from health experts, he decided that the rule was necessary. Montgomery has seen rising hospitalizations and case counts throughout much of May and into this month.
Montgomery County now has the most cases of COVID-19 in the state after surpassing both Jefferson County and Mobile County, which have much larger populations.
The failed ordinance specified that masks were required for anyone in public in groups of 25 or more. Reed’s order reduced that to 10 or more, with a penalty of $25 for violations.
Over the past seven days, 666 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Montgomery County, roughly 13 percent of the state’s cases over the same time period. Neighboring Lowndes County has the highest per capita rate of infection in the state.
Councilman Glenn Pruitt, who voted against the ordinance Tuesday night, took to the podium to explain why he changed his mind today.
“All I was looking at was the enforcement of the ordinance,” he said. “I was so concerned about that, how it wouldn’t work, I did not see the big picture of where we needed to be.”
He called his wife the next morning, he said, to ask if she thought he was wrong.
“And her words to me were, ‘If Courtney Pruitt were alive, you would have voted for it,’” Pruitt said, referencing his daughter, 19, who died of cancer last year. He paused and bit his lip, appearing to get emotional. What his wife said was true, he continued, and he would have sponsored the ordinance.
Pruitt said that after hearing from the doctors standing to the side of the podium, any person would do what they said to do in any normal situation — so why not during COVID-19.
“And listen, it’s a mask. That’s it,” he said. “If I could have had my daughter back for one more day, you better believe I would have voted for a mask.”
Pruitt committed to working with officials to find an ordinance that will be appropriate for the coming weeks and months, if necessary.
“Out of 17 years, I’ve voted on a lot of things. This is the one that’s given me the most problems because I knew what I would have done differently had circumstances been right or different, so why not do it even though she’s not here? To save somebody else’s life,” he said.
Reed’s order will take effect on Friday at 5 p.m. and remain in place for three weeks, until the council’s next meeting on July 7.
— City of Montgomery (@CityofMGM) June 17, 2020
Alabama recorded its highest number of COVID-19 patients on Tuesday, with the fewest available intensive care beds since the pandemic began.
As of Tuesday, 678 COVID-19 patients were being cared for across the state’s hospitals, 73 of whom were admitted that day — the most admissions in a single day so far, according to Dr. Donald Williamson, the president of the Alabama Hospital Association.