Fairhope City Council president Jack Burrell acknowledged tonight that he and two other members of his household have tested positive for COVID-19, leading him to quarantine for the past two weeks. But at the council work session prior to the meeting, the council at large expressed no interest in passing a mask mandate.
On or about June 24, Burrell said, a member of his household was told a coworker had tested positive. Later, he said, he decided to begin quarantining while test results were pending on the younger member of his family. The test came back positive and on about June 29-30, Burrell and his wife both tested positive. The child has since tested negative.
Burrell said no one was ever hospitalized, but he felt peak illness around July 4-5 and has since recovered. He said it would be “prudent” to get a negative test himself before he returned to his public position in person, adding he took a second test earlier today and will await the results.
On the council, Burrell has been reluctant to pass a mask mandate but has been supportive of the city’s general COVID-19 precautions, including canceling large events and at times, closing City Hall to the public.
“I think it is important we urge the public to wear masks when you can’t properly social distance and wear masks when you’re in public or have to be near people,” he said Monday, noting some people can’t wear masks. “I’m not for mandating masks, not for passing an ordinance, but when you can or can’t socially distance, wear masks in public.”
He said Baldwin County has had a lower exposure than most counties in the state until recently, but “our numbers are on the rise.” As of this afternoon, the Alabama Department of Public Health has reported 1,341 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Baldwin County, leading to 11 confirmed deaths. While it remains among the lowest cumulative infection rates in the state, Baldwin County also has one of the fastest growing rates in the state over the past two weeks. A high of 92 cases was confirmed July 2 and in the 12 days since, 486 new cases have been confirmed.
No council member was wearing a mask at tonight’s meeting. At the work session beforehand, Mayor Karin Wilson, who was wearing a mask, said she’s heard from many people who want a mask mandate, reporting data she gathered from Thomas Hospital indicating both positive tests and hospitalizations are on the rise.
Wilson noted the Centers for Disease Control encourages the use of face coverings in public places and while she didn’t provide explicit support for a broad mandate, she did acknowledge she was requiring city employees to wear them to the council meeting.
“The government’s job is public safety and when seatbelts were mandated I’m sure that was an inconvenience for some people,” she said. “The difference is, if you’re choosing not to wear a seatbelt, you’re only affecting yourself. What we know today … is [a mask mandate] probably would help.”
Councilman Jimmy Conyers said some of his own family members tested positive COVID-19 and he encouraged public use of face coverings, but he “would stop short of a mandate.” Councilman Jay Robinson said it’s “an impossibility” to enforce a mandate, although it may be a safer alternative.
“But does that make it appropriate for me to tell you I think it’s appropriate for you?” he asked. “I don’t feel comfortable with that.”
The council agreed, urging voluntarily compliance with best practices and “leading by example.”
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