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Auburn to consider local face mask ordinance
Auburn City Council

Auburn to consider local face mask ordinance

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Opelika High School graduation 2020

Nate Evans' family wear face masks with his photo on them during his graduation ceremony at Opelika High School earlier this year.

Auburn city officials acknowledged Tuesday night that a local face mask ordinance deserves serious consideration.

Several residents who addressed the council’s regular meeting electronically Tuesday have signed a petition making the rounds locally asking the cities of Auburn and Opelika to compel mask wearing. That effort has garnered over 900 signatures so far.

Speakers referred to rising COVID-19 infection rates across Alabama, as well as the recent uptick reported yesterday by East Alabama Medical Center officials and the fact that Auburn University students are expected back on campus soon.

“The fall semester begins Aug. 17, and that means we have only six weeks to slow spread before classes start, said Annie Campbell, an Auburn resident and assistant professor at the university. “… If the SEC is forced to cancel its season, Opelika and Auburn will suffer the economic effects of that.”

Matthew Carter, a local pediatrician, said face masks are safe and proven to fight the spread of COVID-19.

“I wear one at work every day for several hours … enact a mask ordinance and we can beat this virus. It is not that hard,” said Carter, who added that a recent internet rumor about mask wearing causing carbon dioxide poisoning is completely false.

Masks are a “simple solution to a terrible problem. It is unsafe right now to be in this community I love,” said Auburn professor Anton DiSclafani.

“We’ll get moving — we hear you and we’ll start moving,” Mayor Ron Anders said in response to the residents

lobbying for more action to curb the local spread of COVID-19.

Anders plans to consult with Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller and Lee County Probate Judge Bill English Wednesday on coordinating a local policy and research the best way to move forward.

He said it may be later this week or early next before a plan is in place.

City Manager Jim Buston explained that any ordinance drafted by the city would have to be reviewed by state health officials, then subject to a public hearing before it could be enacted.

Council members generally agreed that they need to meet soon and take some kind of action.

Auburn University has ordered all of its students, staff and faculty to wear face coverings in all university buildings and at public events.

“It’s not going to do any good” if city doesn’t enact such a policy to go with the university’s mandate, said Councilman Steven Dixon.

Anders also noted that there are a lot of residents who may not agree with a local law compelling masks.

He urged them to step forward and make their cases while the city plots how best to act.

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