Even after the state’s mask mandate is set to expire on April 9, East Alabama Medical Center will require masks be worn inside its two hospitals in Opelika and Valley, the hospital group announced Thursday. Many major national retail chains will also still require masks to be worn inside their stores.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Thursday extended her statewide mask order while loosening some other restrictions, but said she had no plans to extend the mask order once it expires April 9.
“We firmly believe that masks play a pivotal role in slowing the spread of COVID-19,” said EAMC spokesman John Atkinson in a statement. “Right now, only about 15 percent of Alabamians have received one vaccine dose, and fewer who are fully vaccinated. There are still many variables in play, such as speed of the vaccine rollout, acceptance of the vaccine, and how the variants behave in the weeks ahead, especially if fewer people are masked.”
Atkinson said that EAMC required masks inside the hospital prior to Ivey first issuing her mandate last July, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
“Given the current vaccination count, we still a ways to go before reaching herd immunity, which most health experts agree needs to be at least 50 percent of the population,” Atkinson said. “We will continue to encourage mask-wearing, social distancing and good hand hygiene beyond April 9.”
Even without the statewide order, many retailers will require masks be worn including Walmart, Sam’s Clubs, Target, CVS, Kroger, Publix, Dollar General, McDonald’s and others. Additionally, President Joe Biden issued an executive order requiring masks to be worn in federal buildings and on public transportation.
EAMC’s had administered 40,977 doses of vaccine as of Thursday, according to a press release. Next week the hospitals expect to administer mostly required second doses, but on Monday, March 8, when time slots for Monday, March 15, are released, more than 800 time slots will be available for patients to receive first doses.
State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said Thursday that the state has administered more than 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines. Alabama’s death toll from COVID-19 crossed 10,000 on Wednesday.