This story has circulated this week and even gained attention from the national news media, about a family being turned away from a storm shelter, last Easter Sunday, in the Town of Crossville, Al., because they did not have face mask. As most all the local media and national media ran this story, we decided to wait and hear all the facts of the story before we did an article.
The following is the response from Mayor Tera L. Fortenberry, Mayor of the Town of Crossville.
I have been made aware of the recent allegations that an individual(s) was refused entry into the storm shelter because the individual(s) did not have a mask for their personal protection. Unlike some news organizations and individuals, I began investigating and gathering information from witnesses who heard and saw the exchange between the employee and the citizen, first-hand.
First and foremost, the employee was only following the instructions that I had posted on Saturday that explained when the shelter would be open and that some type of face mask (anything that covered the nose and mouth was acceptable) would be required to be worn in order to enter the storm shelter due to the threat of COVID-19. I gave those exact same instructions to the manager of the storm shelter. Please note, this information was made available the day prior to the storms, in hope that everyone would have ample opportunity to secure whatever face masks they needed. It is also important to note that the storm shelters maximum capacity is 110 people. That translates to it being impossible to safely social distance inside the shelter during severe weather.
Second, the individual(s) was not turned away. She was asked if she had a mask. She said no. Then, she turned and walked away, angrily. The shelter manager immediately got donated face mask from inside the shelter and went out into the storm to try and give her the masks and get the individual(s) inside. He could not find her. The door was never slammed in her face. In fact, the door was not even closed until she was already walking away.
Again, she was never turned away. I, as the mayor of the Town of Crossville, was never asked about the alleged incident until much later. Neither was the shelter manager. Neither were any of the witnesses from the shelter.
Due to donations, we have extra masks for the shelter should a situation like this one arise again. We are thankful for those donations but are prayerful that we will not need them.
Lastly, I am not immune to all of the opinions being tossed around about this situation or my response to it. I have been working to collect all the facts so that I could form the correct and best response to this situation. My conclusion is that my instructions were followed, and she was not turned away. She was angered by a question and she chose to leave without giving the shelter manager the opportunity to provide her with a mask and bring her inside. The importance of the mask can not be understated in this situation. My office has just been made aware that a person in the shelter on Sunday night has tested positive for COVID-19. The person who tested positive did have a face mask on the entire time she was in the shelter.
Mayor Tera L. Fortenberry