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“An overstep”: Lieutenant governor bemoans governor’s statewide mask order

“Issuing a statewide face mask mandate, however, is an overstep that infringes upon the property rights of business owners and the ability of individuals to make their own health decisions,” Alabama’s lieutenant governor said.

Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth speaks during a video message. (LT. GOV.'S OFFICE)

Within minutes of Gov. Kay Ivey’s announcement Wednesday of her decision to issue a statewide face mask order, which goes into effect Thursday at 5 p.m., Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth came out against the measure. 

U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, however issued a statement in support of Ivey’s decision, which Jones said was evidence that Ivey was clearly following advice from health care professionals.

New cases, deaths and hospitalizations due to coronavirus have continued to surge in recent weeks, worrying public health experts as the supply of available intensive care beds stateside continues to dwindle. 

Ainsworth, who’s battled Ivey on COVID-19 matters several times throughout the pandemic, said in a statement after Ivey’s announcement that he encourages the wearing of masks and social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19, but that he’s against a statewide order to do so. 

“Issuing a statewide face mask mandate, however, is an overstep that infringes upon the property rights of business owners and the ability of individuals to make their own health decisions,” Ainsworth said. “In addition, it imposes a one-size-fits-all, big government requirement on counties that currently have low to moderate infection rates and little need for such a mandate.”

“Masks should be worn to combat further outbreaks, and while I admire Gov. Ivey’s leadership and her on-going efforts, I also believe a statewide order is the wrong way to go about encouraging their use,” Ainsworth continued. 

Jones, however,  sees the decision as a necessary step to slow the spread of the deadly virus, which has killed at least 1,183 Alabamians so far. 

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“Governor Ivey did the right thing today by enacting a statewide mask policy. Unlike her counterparts in other Deep South states, Governor Ivey is clearly following the advice of health care professionals. Many Alabama communities in COVID-19 hotspots have already taken this step, which will help limit the spread of this virus and reduce the strain on our struggling hospitals and health care workers, and it just makes sense to do it on a statewide basis,” Jones said in a statement. “We all want to move past this deadly, disruptive pandemic. By taking the simple steps of wearing a mask and social distancing, we can each do our part to protect lives and livelihoods.”

Ainsworth early on during the pandemic urged a more strong response from the state government, then after Ivey’s series of more restrictive measures, Ainsworth flipped and began pushing for a reopening of the state’s economy despite Alabama not meeting the White House’s recommendations of declining cases for at least two weeks.

Ainsworth on June 23 announced that a staff member had tested positive for COVID-19, and that all his staffers were being tested for the virus.

Eddie Burkhalter is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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