The Alexandria City Council on Saturday passed an ordinance requiring everyone in the city to wear a face mask in public.
The measure passed 5-2, and a $100 civil penalty for not wearing a mask was removed from the ordinance before passage after it was universally agreed at the meeting by council and city staff that it will not be enforceable. The city manager must now designate city staff to hand out masks and citations to lawbreakers.
The ordinance will go into effect on October 1 and expire when Alexandria’s local emergency declaration ends.
“I think it’s good in the sense that it signals our intent to the community,” City Councilman Mo Seifeldein said. “I did not think this is actually going to be enforced at all, but there there are many laws or ordinances that have binds that are not enforced because we use our discretion and common sense in doing them.”
City Councilman Canek Aguirre and Councilwoman Del Pepper voted against the mask ordinance. Aguirre said that the matter was never brought forward to council by The Partnership For A Healthier Alexandria, the Public Health Advisory Commission, Neighborhood Health or the Inova hospital system.
“I’m in opposition to this,” Aguirre said. “I strongly feel that an ordinance is not the way to go, especially when there’s absolutely no way to enforce this.”
A number of city residents spoke against the ordinance.
“I come to you as someone who’s already been physically assaulted by two men for requiring them wearing face masks in my business,” said Alan Pounders, who runs a restaurant along the waterfront. “Myself and my staff, we’ve been verbally assaulted over this on almost a daily basis.”
There are exceptions. Children under the age of 10 will not be required to wear a mask, nor will people with disabilities that can’t wear them for health reasons and athletes falling within the governor’s executive order on COVID-19 restrictions.
There are 62 COVID-related fatalities and there are now or have been 3,613 cases of COVID-19 in Alexandria, according to the Virginia Department of Health.