Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday confirmed her previous promise: that her statewide mask order will expire at 5 p.m. on Friday. But she encouraged the public to continue wearing masks and said she’d do so as well.
After Ivey’s “Safer at Home” order expires Friday her “Safer Apart” order will be enacted, which changes all but two mandates regarding social distancing and other protective measures into recommendations. The new order is set to expire on May 5.
“We know that wearing masks has been one of our greatest tools in combating the spread of the virus,” Ivey said. “That, along with practicing good hygiene and social distancing, has helped us keep more people from getting sick or even worse, from dying.”
“As of Monday, the seven-day average for newly reported COVID-19 cases was 328 per day. That’s a 92 percent drop from the high reached on January 10, and the lowest average since the spring of 2020,” Ivey said.
Ivey also noted that the seven-day average number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients on Monday was 331, which was an 89 percent drop from the Jan. 11 high.
“I will continue to wear my mask and when I’m around others, and will strongly urge my fellow citizens to use common sense, and also practical personal responsibility,” Ivey said.
Ivey noted that almost 1.2 million Alabamians have had at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, which is almost 30 percent of those eligible statewide.
“It’s so encouraging to see that folks are wanting to get vaccinated, and to help themselves and keep their families safe,” Ivey said.
State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said what remains in the new health order are the previous orders’ mandates regarding hospital and nursing home visitations.
“The rest of it are encouragements for people to follow these public health measures, but not orders to do so,” Harris said.
Harris said approximately 10,600 Alabamians have died from COVID-19, and while “we’re not out of the woods yet,” he said officials feel much better about where the state is.
“We want to remind people to please continue to do those things that will protect people, protect yourself, protect those who are most vulnerable,” Harris said.
Harris said for the first time this week the state has vaccines in more than 700 locations and multiple locations in every county. This week the state had more vaccine doses than ever before, he said, recommending that everyone over the age of 16 gets vaccinated.
“If you have questions about that, please talk to your doctor and ask those questions. That’s the way that we get held back to normal,” Harris said.
The Birmingham City Council on Tuesday voted to extend that city’s mask order until May 24, and the Montgomery City Council did so as well, adopting a 30-day extension to the city’s mask mandate, to go into effect Friday.
Ivey was asked about cities approving their own mask orders and said she has no jurisdiction over cities, and that businesses have the right to set their own rules. She applauded local efforts to encourage the wearing of masks.
“If you want to wear the masks, I certainly encourage it, and I certainly encourage the cities to do so as well,” Ivey said.
The Alabama Board of Medical Examiners encourages people to continue to wear face masks after Alabama’s statewide order expires.
“There is no doubt that face coverings have saved lives. We encourage everyone to continue to wear face coverings, practice social distancing and frequently wash their hands. This is important for your safety and the protection of others,” said Dr. Mark LeQuire, chair of the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners, in a statement. “Alabama has come so far in the fight against COVID-19, and we need to continue these safety precautions until many more Alabamians have been vaccinated.”
More than 300 local Birmingham businesses were largely split in a poll that asked questions about whether those businesses would still require workers and customers to wear masks after the statewide mandate expires.
In the poll, conducted by the Birmingham Business Alliance, 51 percent of businesses said they’d require workers to wear masks after Ivey’s order expires, while 60 percent said they would not require customers to wear masks.
Asked if the businesses anticipate a negative reaction and resistance from customers if those businesses do continue to require face masks in the absence of a public health order, 31 percent said yes, 31 percent said no, and 38 percent said maybe.