Gov. Ivey keeps mask order in place, says she will lift it April 9
By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor
MONTGOMERY – As we near the one-year mark of COVID-19 in the state of Alabama, Gov. Kay Ivey made a big announcement regarding the state’s mask mandate on Thursday, March 4.
While she extended the state’s mask mandate and safer-at-home order, the governor vowed to lift the mandate when it next expires on Friday, April 9 following the Easter holiday.
“Even with this positive news however, Dr. (Scott) Harris and I are convinced that we need to get past Easter and hopefully allow more Alabamians to get their first shot before we take a step some other states have taken to remove the mask order altogether and lift other restrictions,” Ivey said. “There is no question wearing masks has been one of our safest tools in preventing the spread of the virus. When we lift the mask order, I will continue to wear my mask while around others and will strongly urge my fellow citizens to use common sense and do the same thing, but at that time, it will become a matter of personal responsibility and not a government mandate.”
In addition to that announcement, Ivey said other restrictions are now being lifted.
Restaurants will no longer be forced to have seating limitations, hospitals and nursing homes can now have two visitors at a time, nursing homes can now do outdoor programs with residents and summer camps will be allowed to return this summer.
Ivey said hospitals need to update their policies, while also saying these new updates will benefit the mental health of nursing home residents and others.
For the time being, Ivey and Harris, the state health officer, agreed it was best to extend the current order through the Easter holiday to remain cautious.
“Folks, we are not there yet but goodness knows we’re getting closer,” Ivey said. “We are moving in the right direction, and I certainly want to thank the people of Alabama, once again, for their tremendous help and support to get us where we are.”
Ivey said once the new order expires, she will not continue to have a mask mandate across the state due to the recent decline in cases and hospitalizations as well as the accessibility of the vaccine.
“While I’m convinced a mask mandate has been the right thing to do, I also respect those who object and believe this was a step too far in government overreach,” Ivey said. “Throughout this time, Dr. Harris and I have worked our hearts out in hopes of bringing about a sense of balance to all of this. The bottom line is we’ve kept the mask mandate in place for more than a generous period of time because it’s helped. As a result to people doing their part, we have seen dramatic results and real progress being made.”
The state’s seven-day average for new cases is the lowest it has been since late June 2020, while new hospitalizations are the lowest since June 29. It marked an 87-percent drop for new cases since a high on Jan. 10 and a 77-percent drop for new hospitalizations since a high on Jan. 11.
Ivey said when the order expires, business can put their own restrictions in place if they still feel masks are necessary.
“If businesses believe wearing masks are important to keeping their doors open and their employees and customers safe, then they’ll have five weeks from today to impose their own policies,” she said.
But without any restrictions in place, Alabamians will be able to choose whether they go out in public with or without a mask when the mandate officially ends April 9.