I viewed the mayor’s July 2 video and am appalled at his use of “freedom of choice” in wearing protective face coverings. Our nation has long had laws, ordinances, regulations and rules that require the wearing of personal protective equipment for the physical and medical safety of an individual in certain work and environmental conditions.

OSHA, the state of Alabama, and corporations require eye protection in certain instances. Face coverings are required in surgery centers and work places that have breathing hazards. Hearing protection is required in areas from shooting ranges to manufacturing locations with high noise levels. None of these acts are an infraction of an individual’s freedom but rather a means to protect that person from hurting themselves or another person. Rules for medical protection have been accepted for over 100 years as a means to protect the public (in mass or individually) from disease or physical harm to themselves or their families. Even the Alabama Department of Public Health order requires face protection by many employees in business establishments.

For the city of Cullman to buy-into the political slogan of the wearing of a protective mask as a “freedom of choice” is simply a choice to ignore the authority they have as elected officials to protect all our citizens.

Now I have heard it said that if an ordinance was passed to have all people in the City of Cullman wear masks it would be unenforceable due to the volume of people violating it. To me, this is simply a cowardly way to slip away from making a decision and not facing a thoughtful or effective way of protecting the public. The wording is very important. It could be written to enlist the aid of local businesses when a customer comes into a business. How many businesses would like to stay open and help the Cullman city government keep Cullman safe and reduce the current sickness and death rates along with the city enforcement agencies? It could be tied to the CDC’s guidelines for the protection of personal hygiene (face coverings, hand washing, and distancing) with a training period of warnings and then a fine. There are many forms the ordinance can take to be effective; these are just two. But the end result is to prevent COVID-19 from spreading so it will eventually die within the individual with no means to transfer itself to someone else.

As to the idea that the ordinance would be unenforceable, all ordinances are unenforceable if they are ignored, lightly dismissed by first responders, courts, or the general public. But, with a positive attitude with the intent to protect and serve, in time most ordinances will be honored by those it was meant to protect and those who desired to not follow them due to prejudices for any governmental guidance of the majority. To the latter I have only pity that they don’t care about the physical and medical welfare of their own family members or the general public.

Once there was an elderly, cigar chain-smoking gentleman who heard me complain about an assignment that I had been given that totally overwhelmed me with multi-facets of details. After listening to me say that the project can not be done, he puffed on his cigar and quietly said, “When you sit down to eat an elephant you have to take it one bite at a time choosing which bite comes first.” After many bites the project was done and the problems were solved. The use of PPE practices is not for protecting the user, but to protect others from the user.

Years ago, Mrs. Edwards at East Elementary School always told her classes that, “Can’t can never solve anything.” I have now heard can’t and won’t enough from the mayor, council and our governor with her “you can’t have a life without livelihood.” Facial coverings, washing hands, and social distancing never stopped someone from doing a day’s worth of work for a day’s wages. Our regulations on health and safety have proven that fact. Now is the time for our city leaders to earn their wages by creating meaningful change in the daily habits of our citizens who fail to understand the seriousness of COVID-19 from 2020 thru 2021.

This is even more important as schools plan to open again in August. We must protect the students, their teachers, school employees and parents. We need to create a safer environment for the students. This starts with protecting the teachers first, sanitizing the building second, and then it become a safer place for students and visitors.

The video I watched and listened to was entertaining as it “played to the choir.” But it is time to get serious since at the time the video was filmed we had 400 cases. As of Friday, we were at 554 cases and one more death. It’s time for our city leaders to get to work and stop looking for ways to avoid the challenge of public health. This virus is not going to magically disappear or die by a miracle. This disease knows no restrictions as to age, sex, religion, or race in Cullman. It is time the City of Cullman uses all the tools at their disposal since it can take months after infection to become deadly, and time as been wasted due to a reluctance to act against COVID-19.

George Ponder is a Cullman resident.

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