By ARTHUR L. MACK
The Mobile City Council on Tuesday voted on several COVID-19-related items, including a $36,000 purchase order to Doc RX for COVID-19 tests, an amendment of the 2019 Action Plan to add funding for COVID-19 testing for the homeless and senior residents of public housing, and an amendment to the fiscal year 2019-20 general fund budget to appropriate funds for an emergency grant program in response to COVID-19.
In addition, councilmembers voted to adopt a resolution, sponsored by councilman Fred Richardson, urging all citizens to wear protective face coverings when entering or working at places of business.
Councilmembers voted 6-1 to purchase 3,000 of the COVID-19 test kits, valued at $12 each. Councilwoman Bess Rich, who cast the lone no vote, said she was concerned because the tests were not approved by the Food and Drug Administration and there were concerns regarding the tests’ validity.
The motion to amend the 2019 Action Plan to add funding for COVID-19 funding for homeless and those senior citizens living in public housing passed unanimously.
“I’m glad to see this going forward,” said council vice-president C.J. Small regarding the funding for homeless and senior citizens living in public housing. “I hope the administration is doing everything it can to assist the housing board and if there’s anything else they need, to please come to the council. We have the understanding that those who are living in housing developments are the less fortunate people and the most vulnerable people. We really need to look out for those who are in the nursing homes and the housing developments.”
So too, did the appropriation for funds for an emergency grant program, with a proposed amount of $500,000 to be set aside for those businesses that qualify, and will be taken out of the Fiscal Year 2020 budget. The qualifying amounts would range from $1,500 per business to $2,500 per business. The item first came up during a special city council meeting on May 1, and is scheduled to be discussed during a public hearing on May 12.
Richardson’s resolution on urging citizens to wear protective face coverings when entering or working at a place of business passed with six votes, while councilman John Williams abstained. Richardson said he hoped the resolution’s passing would send a positive message to citizens to stay safe.
“This COVID-19 virus is nothing to play with,” he said. “It’s not on a down trend, it’s on an upward trend. We have the highest number of cases in the state, but people are still going into businesses and to drive-ups where people are serving them. They don’t have masks or gloves (on). This resolution carries no penalties — we’re just encouraging businesses, their employees and our citizens if you’re going to be in a place where there is a business setting, to put your mask on.”
Williams, meanwhile, said there should be one standard, the one established by the Center for Disease Control.
“We must at some point back away as a government and have people doing what they need to be doing,” he said. “I don’t want to mislead our residents into thinking we have some authority as to whether they should wear a mask or not.”