Tuscaloosa residents are encouraging city leaders to take action in the midst of a new surge in COVID-19 cases.

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A petition has been started to implore Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox and the City Council to enact a city-wide mask mandate as hospitalizations and deaths from the Delta variant continue to climb.

The petition emphasizes the importance of local businesses' being able to remain open as well as the necessity of in-person learning within area schools, stressing that the only way to protect both is to issue a city-wide mask mandate.

"We are all still struggling to recover from the many losses of the past year and a half. A citywide mandate for universal masking will save lives, help avoid another lockdown and, in turn, keep our economy afloat, and help keep our children in school," the petition reads.

Tuscaloosa's previous mask mandate expired along with Alabama Governor Kay Ivey's "Safer at Home" Order April 9.

Mayor Walt Maddox recently expressed his reticence to issue a mask mandate for the city, as enforcement of any mandate could prove difficult for local authorities.

"Can you imagine trying to enforce a mask ordinance and putting law enforcement in that extremely difficult position? There's nothing but bad things that can happen," Maddox said.

Maddox issued an Executive Order August 6, 2020 that limited the capacity of bars and restaurants in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19. At that time, DCH Health System was treating 84 inpatients for the virus, 25 of whom were in the intensive care unit.

As of Friday, August 20, DCH is currently treating 131 inpatients for the virus, 29 of whom are in the ICU.

Maddox has not announced any plans to issue a mask mandate in Tuscaloosa and has instead stressed the importance of the community's getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

"Unlike [...] last year where we last saw COVID cases this hard, we have a vaccine... that basically gives you 99.9% protection," Maddox said. "We need to do everything in our power to continue to convince every single person to go do that."

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