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Jeanelle Norman: Sound the alarm and wear your mask
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Jeanelle Norman: Sound the alarm and wear your mask

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Sound the alarm. Decatur is surging in COVID-19 cases. Should we be concerned? Obviously, the city council is very concerned. Concerned might be an understated word for the situation. The community has reached a dangerous level of COVID-19 cases.

Unfortunately, African Americans have a disproportionate number of cases. Sound the alarm. Something had to be done to help deescalate the growing number of cases.

In recognition of the critical growing number of COVID-19 cases, the city council passed an ordinance in hopes of curtailing the situation. The ordinance includes a graduated fine for not wearing a mask in public places. How will the ordinance be enforced?

As an example, an incident occurred at a grocery store approximately two weeks ago. Upon entering the grocery store, there is a warning sign that a mask is to be worn. The sign gives a reasonable explanation as to why a mask is being required.

At one of the checkout lines, there were seven customers waiting to be served. An incident occurred. The incident involved the three people at the head of the line.

Waiting for his groceries to be bagged was an African American male, approximately in his 30s. Let’s call him John. Behind him was a female senior citizen, and behind her was a Caucasian male, approximately in his 60s. Let’s call him Bob.

With the female in-between the men, Bob hollered out to John, “Put your mask on!" John looked astonished as he looked at Bob. Once again, in a very loud voice, Bob, while pointing his finger repeated his command, “Put your mask on!”

Realizing the man was talking to him, John, in a defiant voice retorted, “You can’t tell me what to do!” More words were exchanged between the two men as the senior citizen’s head bounced back and forth. Once John’s groceries were bagged, he left the store. Bob apologized to the senior citizen.

When the cashier was asked why she didn’t say anything, she revealed that they were instructed not to say anything to the customers. Sound the alarm. Store managers already realized the negative responses that customers are likely to make if told verbally to wear the mask.

I was the senior citizen caught in the middle of the argument. My first inclination was to look around for an escape route. No such route.

Praise must be given to the city council for attempting to solve a major problem that is having a negative impact on the citizens. Although the fines are reasonable, the ordinance will be difficult to implement.

Sitting on the sidelines, it is easy to give suggestions. Thus, here are a few suggestions for the city council. In addition to the fine, require the attendance to COVID-19 classes. The class curriculum should include the effects on the body and recommendations on ways to control the virus. The classes must include stories of COVID-19 victims explaining the pain.

The attendees must also visit the gravesites of COVID-19 victims and hear from the families what it is like losing a loved one. Lastly, the class should include the offender visiting the gravesite of a friend or relative. After the visitation, the offender is required to tell how he or she felt about the loss of a loved one and then answer the question, “If you were buried, how do you think your friends and relatives would feel?”

Also, the Principles of Restorative Justice must be utilized. It makes sense; an educational plan must follow the fine.

Sound the alarm. All citizens must hold themselves responsible for taking the right actions to deescalate the spread of COVID-19


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