Governor Kay Ivey on Friday applauded the state’s schools and universities that have ended face mask requirements.
“I applaud the Alabama schools and universities who have made the decision to end mask mandates. Given the health data we’ve seen in Alabama and across the country, I encourage all schools to continue removing these mandates — we don’t need them in Alabama,” Ivey said in a statement. “As a former teacher, I know well that parents should be in charge of making the best decisions for their kids, not government. That’s why here in Alabama, we don’t have covid state government mandates — we sued President Biden over his mandates, and we won. I believe in the good people of our state and will always protect their freedoms.”
Ivey, who’s running for re-election, herself encouraged mask-wearing in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and extended her statewide mask order several times before allowing it to expire in April 2021.
“We know that wearing masks has been one of our greatest tools in combating the spread of the virus,” Ivey said in April 2021. “That, along with practicing good hygiene and social distancing, has helped us keep more people from getting sick or even worse, from dying.”
Public health officials, medical associations and pediatricians, including Dr. David Kimberlin, co-director of UAB and Children’s of Alabama’s Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, pleaded with schools to require students and staff to wear masks as COVID cases and hospitalizations were skyrocketing last summer.
The latest COVID surge, spurred by the more contagious omicron variant, has been on the decline. The seven-day average of new daily cases reported to the Alabama Department of Public Health has fallen from 5,059 two weeks ago to 1,956 on Tuesday.
Even so, Alabama has the lowest percentage of residents fully vaccinated against COVID in the nation, at 50 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alabama also has the fourth-highest number of COVID deaths per capita in the nation, according to the CDC.