The wearing of face coverings in public became man-datory in McComb at 8 a.m. Saturday after the city board approved an ordinance during a special called meeting on Friday.
The order comes with no penalty and the enforcement of it was repeatedly called into question during a debate that resulted in a split vote.
“It is important that we take the appropriate action for the safety, health and welfare of our citizens,” Mayor Quordiniah Lockley said. “As it relates to the masks, it is not a cure. It is a way to prevent the spreading of the virus. It is to protect you as well as protect the citizens.”
The ordinance will run for 60 days and mandates masks in all public spaces — indoors and outdoors — with some exceptions, such as if an individual is exercising, eating or drinking, has health issues that masks would affect, is pumping gas, is entering a building with security surveillance or screening, or is alone in a separate office space or non-public workplaces with six feet of social distancing observed.
If an individual is over the age of 2 and can medically tolerate a face covering, it is required, the ordinance states.
Much like a no shirt, no shoes, no service policy, businesses will be required to enforce a no-mask, no-entry policy.
Cameron vocally opposed the mandate, saying he did not believe the city has the power to tell businesses what to do. Cameron, himself a business owner, worried that customers would take their business to cities without a mandate, which one resident threatened when voicing opposition to the proposal at last week’s work session.
Cameron said the ordinance allows some businesses that require faces to be exposed for security cameras — such as banks — to be exempt from the mandate and argued because his business has security cameras it should be exempt as well.
Tullos, who was diagnosed with COVID-19 in June, said it is his right to wear a mask or not.
“When I go out among the people, it is my right to wear a mask, but I will not vote to take someone else’s right away,” Tullos said.
But Williams noted that the nighttime curfew the board enacted in late March also delved into rights, but it was not an issue at the time.
“This is the same as that mandate that is going to protect the people, so I really don’t think it is taking away rights, but just give protection,” he said. “I think this is something we really need to do with so many cases rising.
“I’m not talking about in Chicago or New York or Pennsylvania. I am talking about right here in Pike County. The cases continue to rise, so I believe we need to do everything we can to have measures in place to protect the citizens.”
Tullos also said he believes businesses should not be forced to make their workers wear masks because some employees are physically unable to, but Lockley said one of the exemptions to the mandate is when it poses a “greater mental or physical health, safety or security risk.”
Board attorney Angela Cockerham noted that Gov. Tate Reeves gave municipalities the right to mandate the wearing of face coverings. She disagreed that the order would violate citizens’ rights.
Police Chief Garland Ward said although he does feel it is important to wear a mask, enforcing the mandate could be difficult.
Ward asked Cockerham if she spoke with a city judge before drafting the ordinance. She said she did not, but she sent a copy of the order to him. Ward said he didn’t receive it until 7 p.m. Thursday. Ward also asked Cockerham if the police are exempt from being sued in enforcing the mandate, and she said yes.
Recreation Department director Joyce Smith asked if residents would have to wear a mask at all times, alluding to summer sports and exercising, and Lockley said those who are exercising are exempt.
Johnson, who also has been diagnosed with the virus, suggested following a similar ordinance that recently took effect in Magnolia and has steep fines for repeat violators. That city’s ordinance offers a warning for a first violation, $500 fine for a second, $50 fine for a third and $100 fine or 12 hours in jail for a fourth. Businesses in Magnolia can receive a warning for a first violation, a $500 fine for a second and a $1,000 fine or a 24-hour closure for a third.
Williams asked if the board could pass the mandate without a fine and add one later if needed, and Cockerham said it’s possible but she does not recommend it, citing a need for “cohesiveness.”
Lockley recommended no fines for now but noted that could be subject to change.