Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday extended her “safer-at-home” order, which includes a statewide mandate to wear face masks in public, until Aug. 31, with the addition of a requirement for masks to be worn in most classrooms statewide.
Ivey’s amended order Tuesday mandates that face masks be worn by employees and students in classrooms from grade 2 through college.
“I know that with all responsibilities of being a teacher, it can be an added burden to require that a mask be worn, but just as we are focused on creating a safe and healthy environment for our students, it’s also important that we take care of our teachers as well,” Ivey said.
With schools preparing to reopen for either in-person classes or for virtual learning for a period of time, Ivey discussed her concern about a “slide” if children are kept at home.
“So here’s a challenge to all of our school districts, and each of our schools around the state,” Ivey said. “Nothing is set in concrete, and if the COVID-19 situation in your community or counties permits, you should be looking to phase back in to in-person classroom participation, if at all possible.”
Asked by a reporter what she’d tell teachers who are concerned about the possibility of contracting the virus in class, Ivey said decisions are made by local school districts.
“Certainly we want our teachers to be safe, as we do our workers at the schools, much less our students, so it’s a work in progress and we’ve just got to use good common sense,” Ivey said.
State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said the state’s COVID-19 numbers “aren’t particularly encouraging, and that Alabama has added more than 22,000 of the state’s 81,572 total cases just within the last two weeks.”
“The state’s COVID-19 hospitalizations have been at all-time highs several days this week,” Harris said.
Alabama hospitals on Tuesday had the fewest intensive care beds available since the start of the pandemic, with just 10 percent not being used. It was the first day during the pandemic that available ICU beds in Alabama dipped below 200. Tuesday also saw the most COVID-19 patients in ICUs across the state.
On Tuesday morning, there were 1,598 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Alabama, and the state set a record-high number of hospitalized coronavirus patients on Monday, at 1,599.
“These numbers are as high as we’ve ever seen,” Harris said.
Asked by a reporter her reasoning for no new restrictions on businesses, given the state’s bad coronavirus numbers, Ivey said “the bottom line is we just simply do not need to close our businesses, if at all possible.”
Ivey’s amended safer-at-home order first went into effect May 22 and allowed more businesses, athletic activities, trade schools and child care facilities to reopen with restrictions.
Ivey on June 30 extended her order with no new restrictions, but on July 15 announced a statewide mask order.
Face masks are to be worn while in public when within six feet of another person outside of one’s own household, while outside around groups of ten or more, and inside public spaces and on public transposition, with exceptions, according to the order.