FLORENCE — A carnival has popped up at a Cox Creek Parkway parking lot this week, but Florence officials question the safety of its arrival in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, a spokesperson for carnival operator Kissel Entertainment said the company has taken numerous measures as precautions against the disease.
Kissel manager Madison Kissel said the five-generation family business has only been open nearly two months this year due to the pandemic. Kissel said the company has set policies to protect guests and employees, and follow Gov. Kay Ivey's May 21 "Safer at Home" orders.
"We have taken the governor's guidelines and have amplified them," Kissel said. "All team members go through best-health practices training with the main focus on COVID."
The carnival is located across the street from Florence Mall.
Mayor Steve Holt said the operators have a city permit and to his knowledge there is no Alabama Department of Public Health order preventing them from operating amid the pandemic.
However, Holt admitted he would rather not have it in Florence.
"If it was me, I wouldn't go and take my family," the mayor said.
He said the city had to permit the company's request because it had no standing in which to reject the request.
"We could have denied them a permit, and they could have sued us," Holt said.
The mayor said he will talk with Police Chief Ron Tyler about having officers make sure social distancing is being followed at the carnival.
COVID cases are increasing statewide and nationally, and the carnival is a traveling attraction.
Councilwoman Michelle Eubanks said local events like the Alabama Renaissance Faire, which would have been held in late in October, already have been cancelled due to COVID concerns, so she does not believe a carnival is safe today.
"There is no reason to think an event like that, that puts people close together, would not infringe on health and safety,." she said. "It seems like an incredibly bad idea to me."
Kissel said workers have health checks, including getting temperatures taken before each shift, and they must wash their hands regularly throughout their shift.
They also wear face coverings and, depending on their duties, gloves.
"We have ample signage when you walk in and throughout the midway promoting social distancing and reminding guests of guidelines," Kissel said. "We have a verbal track also as guests enter reminding them of guidelines, and directional arrows on the ground to help with the flow of traffic."
Six-foot distancing markers also are on the ground, and there are "safe spots" that allow people to be apart from others so they can take a break and remove their masks, Kissel said.
Rides and game equipment are disinfected between each use, she said. Some seats on rides are marked off to indicate where guests cannot use them to help with social distancing, and a crew walks around sanitizing all points while the carnival is open.
"We are requesting parents to buckle their children, with a team member's supervision, so team members aren't reaching in themselves and buckling them," Kissel said.
Masks are provided for guests who request them, and gloves are available at the concessions area, she said.
There are no shared condiment dispensers, and Plexiglas barriers are in place where concession are served.
"We are limiting hours of operation to have ample time for disinfecting," Kissel said. "We ask all guests to be patient with us because it's a little bit of a wait, but it's for everybody's safety."