ALEXANDRIA, Va. (ABC7) — The City of Alexandria is considering a proposal that would expand on Virginia's existing requirements for face coverings. The ordinance now on the table would make face coverings mandatory in all indoor locations besides your home or car, and in all outdoor public places where social distancing isn't possible.
"So if you're walking down your sidewalk, walking your dog, and there's no one around, no mask required," explained Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson. "But if you're walking in a crowded area and there's a lot of people around, and you can't remain six feet apart from those outside your family, then you would be required to wear a mask."
You can read the proposed ordinance here. It was introduced during a virtual city council meeting on Tuesday night.
"We've certainly heard a lot of complaints, you know, in some of our business districts where we've had larger crowds and folks who just aren't social distancing and aren't staying safe," said Wilson.
During Tuesday's council discussion, a few council members expressed concern about how the ordinance would be enforced.
"Personally, I don't go anywhere without a mask, the only place that I don't wear a mask is in my home," said Council Member Canek Aguirre. "And I am in favor of this ordinance and a concept of it, however, I do have some hesitation. I'm going to move forward with this since this is the first reading and I will follow up with staff, but my hesitation lies with enforcement, how we will be tracking it."
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam's current order regarding face coverings requires masks to be worn in most indoor public places.
RELATED: Northam: Face coverings to be required in buildings in Virginia
Alexandria's proposal includes language that says people who don't comply with the mask requirements could face a $100 fine. But Mayor Wilson told ABC7 that enforcement is not the goal.
"You know we don't envision this as an enforcement effort. This is not designed to be something that we are out writing civil tickets on. The goal is an educational effort, and trying to continue folks to keep up the vigilance to keep this virus at bay," said Wilson.
During Tuesday's council meeting, council members voted unanimously to advance the proposal to a public hearing. That virtual public hearing will take place Saturday morning as part of the council's regular meeting starting at 9:30 a.m.
The council is expected to take a final vote on the ordinance on Saturday, when the public hearing is complete. If approved, the new face mask requirements would take effect on October 1.
The city says there would be a few exceptions to the mask mandate, such as when a person is age 10 or younger, when wearing a face covering would be harmful to the wearer’s health, or when a person is actively eating or drinking.
Wilson said Alexandria's proposed ordinance is modeled after existing mask requirements in Maryland and the District, though Alexandria would be the first jurisdiction in Northern Virginia to take such a step.
"My hope is that in the Commonwealth, we end up in a place where we have a statewide policy," said Wilson.