With COVID-19 numbers continuing to decline, even after Labor Day Weekend, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced at a press conference Sept. 30 she is extending the “Safer at Home” and mask order for another five weeks.
Initially running through Oct. 2, Ivey said the announcement means the orders are now set to end Sunday, Nov. 8. The general election on Tuesday, Nov. 3 was a factor, she told members of the press in Montgomery.
“It’s important to have a safe environment for poll workers, poll watchers and those who want to vote in person,” she said.
Another factor in the decision, Ivey said, was the success the orders, especially the mask mandate, have had on the number of cases in the state.
“When it’s working as well as it is and there is no vaccine, you keep at it,” she said.
However, she confirmed a point initially made by Secretary of State John Merrill that masks will not be required to vote. She added she would be wearing a mask during the federal election to “protect poll workers.”
Ivey said she understands the choice to extend the orders is controversial to some.
“I know there are many who hoped I would follow the lead of other states and remove the mask order,” she said. “We’ve heard from a lot of you and I hear you.”
However, State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said the mask order, which has been in place since July 16, has been the major factor in the positive test rate in the state falling to its lowest level since the crisis began at 7.1 percent, and COVID-19 hospitalizations dropping by half in recent weeks.
“The mask ordinance is working,” Harris said. “It works and we have evidence of that.”
In addition to the improved numbers related to positive test rates and hospitalizations, Harris also said only six of the state’s 67 counties are still seeing increases in COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began to impact Alabama in March.
The order continues to limit some activities in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, though not nearly as much as stricter orders issued earlier this year, which closed restaurants, many retail stores and small businesses statewide.
In Mobile County, cases have increased by 170 from Oct. 1 to Oct. 6, according to information from the Mobile County Health Department. There are currently 79 Mobile County patients hospitalized with COVID-19. The number of hospitalized patients in Mobile County has remained relatively flat since Sept. 23, save for a high of 81 on Oct. 3.
Since March there have been 13,778 cases reported to the Alabama Department of Public Health from Mobile County and 300 deaths. In that same time, Baldwin County has reported 6,116 cases and 55 deaths. Statewide in the last two weeks, there have been 105,439 tests given and 14,531 confirmed cases.
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