What The Madison County Mask Order Means For You

Madison County, Alabama, is under a mandatory Order to wear face masks or other face coverings beginning at 5:00 pm on July 7, 2020.  The Order was issued by the Madison County Public Health Officer.

Here we answer all your questions about this new order.

What Does the Face Mask Order Say?

The Madison County face mask order says that individuals must wear face coverings in public. These face coverings or masks must cover your nose and mouth.

Bandanas, scarves, or other fabric masks may be worn. Medical-grade face masks are NOT required for the general public. 

When Do I Have To Wear A Mask in Madison County?

According to the mandatory masking order, individuals are required to wear face masks or covering in the following situations:

  • In indoor locations: This applies to locations that are open to the general public. Examples include stores, bars, restaurants, entertainment venues, meeting spaces, and government buildings. In this case, both BOTH customers and employees/staff must wear a face covering.
  • When riding on public transportation: These include taxis, buses, paratransit, or ride-sharing services.
  • In public outdoor areas: If ten or more people are present, and it is not possible to stay at least six feet from people from other households, then you must wear a face covering.

When Is A Face Mask NOT Required?

There are several exceptions in the Order when a face mask or covering will not be required:

  • Children two (2) years of age and under:  This exception is because face coverings can pose a risk of suffocation for toddlers and infants.
  • When eating or drinking: Faces should be re-covered when interacting with other people, such as servers, bartenders, or other customers.
  • During medical or dental examinations or procedures: When procedures require access to the mouth or nose, or you are directed by a medical or dental professional, then you may remove your face mask.
  • During hair care services: When a face covering is in the way, it may be removed briefly. Faces should be kept covered at all other times for both customers and workers.
  • When a face mask or face covering may pose a safety hazard: This exception includes certain work sites or when operating certain pieces of equipment.
  • In places of worship:  However, places of worship are strongly encouraged to use face coverings for congregants and to maintain at least six (6) feet of distance between members of different households.
  • When a face covering is a barrier to communication for the hearing impaired or when speaking to a large group of people: This exception is valid only if the speakers maintain an appropriate six (6) foot distance from other people.
  • When actively participating in certain indoor athletic activities: Once the activity is over, then face coverings should be put back on. Masks should always be worn by staff members of indoor athletic centers and gyms and spectators.
  • In private clubs or gatherings: These should not be open to the public, and it must be possible to maintain six (6) feet of distance from people from different households. 
  • In private offices or areas of a business: These should not be open to the public and in places where employees do not interact with each other.

How Long Will The Order Last?

The Order will remain in effect until the Madison County Board of Health determines it is no longer needed or changes it.

What Happens If You Violate The Order?

Individuals who do not wear masks in Madison County (and do not qualify for any of the exceptions) can be charged with a misdemeanor.

Alabama Law to Know: Alabama Code Section 22-1-8

What It Says:

“Any person who violates any of the health or quarantine laws, except those for which a special penalty is prescribed, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”

This law applies to violations of the Madison County Mask Order. Therefore, violating the Mask Order gives law enforcement the authority to issue a citation or arrest the violator.

How Will the Mask Order Be Enforced?

Here is what the various local law enforcement agencies have said about the plan to enforce the mandatory mask law:

Madison County Board of Health: They stated that law enforcement can decide how to respond to violations and that officers’ discretion can be used to take action or not take action.  

Huntsville Police Department: They stated that if someone violates the Mask Order, they could be issued a citation of up to $500.  HPD has also said that they do not wish to issue citations and are taking an educational approach. Officers will have a limited supply of masks to offer to those who fail to follow the Order. 

Madison County Sheriff’s Department: They stated that someone who violates the Mask Order could be placed under arrest, but deputies would prefer to avoid arrests and take an educational approach for anyone who fails to follow the Order.

Is The Mandatory Mask Order Legal?

The short answer is yes. Orders for mandatory face coverings are legal.

Both U.S. Federal and Alabama State laws give officials the authority to issue health orders and regulations to protect the public during health emergencies.

Federal Law to Know: 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution

How It Applies:

The 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution gives powers to the states which are not specifically given to the federal government.  

Landmark Case: Compagnie Francaise de Navigation a Vapeur v. Louisiana State Board of Health (U.S. 1902).

In 1902, the United States Supreme Court held that a state can enact and enforce public health orders pursuant to their authority derived from the 10th Amendment. Thus the 10th Amendment gives states the authority to take action in public health emergencies. 

Alabama Law To Know: Alabama Code Section 22-3-5(2)

How It Applies:

In Alabama, County Health Officers have the legal authority to “institute immediate measures to prevent the spread” of communicable diseases such as COVID-19 infections.

County Health Officers work under the direction of and derive their authority from the Alabama State Board of Health.  

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