Alabama Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth on Wednesday called for Gov. Kay Ivey to rescind her statewide mask order, which is to expire Friday without an extension.
Ainsworth’s urging comes as federal, state and local health officials in several states, and in Alabama, urge caution about loosening COVID-19 restrictions too soon. Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday lifting his state’s mask order, which prompted a local health director to urge more caution.
Ainsworth in a statement Wednesday called on Ivey to follow the lead of Texas, Mississippi and other states and rescind her statewide mask mandate, noting declining cases in Alabama and nationwide.
“I urge Gov. Kay Ivey to immediately lift the statewide mask mandate and allow citizens and local officials the liberty to make the decisions that best fit their circumstances,” Ainsworth said in the statement. “Since its implementation last July, I have held the position that a statewide mask mandate is an overstep that infringes upon the property rights of business owners and the ability of individuals to make their own health decisions.”
Ainsworth continued that rescinding the mask order and lifting capacity restrictions and other limitations “will also send the loud, clear, and unmistakable message that Alabama is once again fully open for business.”
“Individuals who wish to continue wearing masks may do so, and business owners certainly have the right to require their employees and customers to wear face coverings, if they wish. Local governments may pass their own requirements, as well,” Ainsworth continued. “Until we reach adequate vaccination and immunity levels, I encourage everyone to continue social distancing, practicing good hygiene, and making smart decisions that affect their own health and the health of those around them.”
Ainsworth’s office on Oct. 21 announced he had tested positive earlier that week, having been tested after someone in his Sunday school class tested positive for the virus.
Ainsworth has been a vocal critic of Ivey’s mask mandate since the beginning despite the scientific evidence that mask-wearing helps reduce transmission and save lives.
Numerous studies have shown that the wearing of cloth or medical masks has been proven to inhibit the spread of COVID-19 and limit the spread of respiratory droplets that may contain infectious virus shed from the nose and mouth of the mask wearer.
Dr. Sarah Nafziger, co-director of UAB’s Emergency Management Committee, told reporters on Wednesday that she hopes Ivey extends the mask order, and noted that the data shows the need to do so. Nafziger said cases and hospitalizations are down, and vaccines are rolling out, which is all good news.
“But guess what. We are not out of the woods yet. We’re not there yet,” Nafziger said.
Nafziger said the state has a lot of vulnerable people “and the last thing we want is for them to get sick or die.”
“We still have the COVID variants out there that have proven to be much more contagious,” Nafziger said, adding that the state still has a large number of hospital beds devoted to COVID-19 patients, and many people aren’t yet immune from the disease.
If Ivey does allow her mask order to expire, Nafziger said she hopes the public continues to wear masks regardless.
“We definitely can make that choice,” Nafziger said. “That’s a personal choice that each one of us makes.”
Ivey is to hold a press conference at 11 a.m. Thursday with State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris to discuss COVID-19, Ivey’s office said Wednesday.