Speaking about trending declines in daily COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths, Gov. Kay Ivey credited Alabama’s statewide requirement for face coverings in public spaces — a controversial public health order implemented in July — and extended it through at least Friday, Oct. 2.
“Folks, I understand you don’t want to wear the mask. I don’t either. My glasses fog up and I can’t understand what people are saying because of the muffle affect the masks have on conversations,” Ivey said. “I wish we didn’t have to wear masks, but we’re seeing significant drops in our hospitalizations and daily positive COVID-19 numbers and I have no doubt that this is the result of our mask ordinance.”
Frankly, Ivey said, “wearing a mask is simply the right thing to do.”
The governor’s remarks at a press conference Thursday occurred in tandem with an order from her office extending Alabama’s “Safer at Home Order.” 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 that closed restaurants and many stores statewide.
According to State Health Officer Scott Harris, Alabama has seen 120,000 cases of COVID-19 since late March resulting in 4,000 hospitalizations and nearly 2,000 deaths. However, Harris noted smaller daily increases of cases and lower percentages of tests showing positive results are good indications the mask ordinance implemented in mid-July has been effective.
Before the state began requiring face coverings in public places where six-foot social distancing can’t be maintained, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) indicated the 14-day average of new daily cases was approaching 3,000 statewide. In recent weeks, those average daily numbers have fallen below 1,000 and local trends in Mobile and Baldwin counties have mostly followed the same pattern.
“This is a good indication that less transmission is occurring in the community, and we believe the mask mandate is the reason for that. It clearly works,” Harris said. “We’ve not had new restrictions imposed on the state level since April, other than this mask mandate and clearly that’s the first thing we’ve implemented that’s caused improvement to this degree. I would like to thank Alabamians for doing this.”
Addressing questions from reporters, Ivey seemed to suggest the mask requirement — one she pushed in consultation with Harris and other members of her Coronavirus Task Force — hasn’t faced much pushback. While it hasn’t led to protests or civil unrest the way that stricter measures like business closures and “stay at home” orders have, it hasn’t exactly been a unanimously popular decision either.
The issue also caused a brief disagreement between Ivey and Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth, who supports wearing masks but has also publicly criticized any requirement as an infringement on civil liberties.
During her speech Thursday, Ivey commended school teachers across the state on the job they have done transitioning back to in-person classes so far. As normal activities slowly continue to resume, Ivey is also warning Alabamians to remain vigilant against COVID-19.
As she has before, Ivey appealed to the state’s love for college football and praised decisions in cities like Tuscaloosa in Auburn to limit gatherings and close bars as students have returned to campus.
“We should not be deceived into thinking the fight against COVID-19 during the day ends when the football game begins in the evening,” she said. “We must wear a mask and stay 6-feet apart as much as possible when we’re not with members of our household, and y’all that includes high school football games and college games when they finally kick off their season.”
Ivey said all Alabamians must remain committed to defeating COVID until a viable vaccine is created.
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