Coronavirus: Alabama family without face coverings denied entry to storm shelter

DEKALB COUNTY, Ala. — A northern Alabama family attempting to relocate to a storm shelter during Easter weekend’s tornadoes said they were denied entry because they did not have enough face coverings.

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The family from the Sand Mountain community of Crossville, which asked to remain anonymous, told WHNT-TV, said they were refused when attempting to enter a shelter in DeKalb County. The lack of face coverings, and concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, were the reasons for denial, family members said.

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“The guy actually opened the door, he motioned, ‘Do you have a mask?’ I held up my mask. I said, ‘I have one mask, I can put it on the child.’ He motioned no and shut the door,” a woman in the family told WHNT.

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The woman said she and her family were left outside in the pouring rain, and with a tornado bearing down on the nearby town of Boaz, the family ran to their car, the television station reported.

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“Actually twice trying to get somewhere, we nearly wrecked," the woman told WHNT. "I just wanted to squall all the way home. I had to keep it together you know?”

The woman said the shelter was not full, and she would have been able to maintain a 6-foot distance from other people.

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The tornado hit Boaz around 6:30 p.m. Sunday, according to The Sand Mountain Reporter. According to Marshall-DeKalb Electric Cooperative, at least 490 customers were left without power Monday morning the newspaper reported.

According to WHNT, DeKalb County Emergency Management Agency officials said the family should have been allowed into the shelter, because of the hazardous weather conditions.

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Before the storm, Crossville Mayor Tera Fortenberry posted on Facebook to remind residents about the area’s face covering policy.

According to WHNT, part of the post read in part, “Please try to remain calm and keep your distance as much as possible. You are entering at your own risk. Everyone has to wear a mask to be allowed to enter.”

Fortenberry also said homemade masks, medical masks or a bandanna were acceptable.

The woman who claimed she was denied to the shelter said she did not use Facebook often and did not see the mayor’s post, WHNT reported.