MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) -- To wear a mask or not to wear a mask? -- It's no longer an option -- late Wednesday afternoon the Mobile City Council mandated face masks will have to be worn in all public places inside the city limits -- starting as early as Friday, July 3rd.
The ordinance is in effect for the next 30 days. It applies to all public places, including retail stores. It does not apply to outside areas like parks as long as people are social distancing. Children 10 years of age and younger are exempt from wearing masks, as well as people with medical issues, who may have trouble breathing while wearing a face covering.
Reaction to the new ordinance was mixed on the street of downtown Mobile.
"I'm hoping it helps. I'm really hoping so," said one man.
"That stuff is going to get on anything. We've all probably been exposed to it. Lee: So you don't think the masks are going to help? -- Nope," said one man.
The goal is to combat COVID-19 and dramatically bring down the number of new cases.
"It will bring the numbers down. It will probably take about two to three weeks -- there will be a lag. But really I think it's in response to maybe opening things up a little bit too early and now we're back pedaling and trying to calm things down again. But it will work -- it will just take a little time," said one man.
With public health the priority, city officials are also trying to avoid another economic shutdown. Downtown's Urban Emporium has already been requiring customers to wear masks.
"We are 100% in support of that. Because we don't want to have to close down again. So we are doing everything we can to protect everybody and keep everybody safe," said Kati Lovvorne, Urban Emporium Store Director.
Michele and Don Siegrist are from Pensacola. Their mask ordinance went into effect last week.
"It can't hurt -- so why not," said Michele.
"It seems like the prudent thing to do. Pensacola did it a week ago and it's best to be cautious," said Don.
Like it or not, you'll need a mask -- at least for the next 30 days. The fines are $50 for first offense, and $100 for a second and subsequent offenses. Mobile Police will be given the discretion to issue warnings and citations. Mayor Sandy Stimpson is encouraging them to hand out face masks.
In the meantime, everyone agrees a vaccine can't come soon enough.
"It's not happening as quickly as I thought it would... But I feel pretty confident it should pass," said Don.
"Maybe by the end of the year. I think this is going to be sort of the midterm for us -- is masks and social distancing. I don't see it going away any time soon," said one man.
"It's a small inconvenience if it really is keeping everyone safe, which it kind of showing that it is... So we are just doing our part by wearing masks," said Lovvorne.
"I don't want to get fined... I don't want to get fined. So I guess I'll have to wear it," said one man.
According to Public Safety Director James Barber the Mobile Police Department just distributed 4,000 face masks to its precincts and have another 10,000 masks on order that should be delivered by Thursday.