Governor Kay Ivey on Monday announced that Alabama’s COVID-19 public health order and state of emergency have both been extended — but for the final time.
The public health order — currently called “Safer Apart” — will end Monday, May 31, 2021, and the state of emergency will end Tuesday, July 6, 2021. Ivey first declared a state of emergency due to the coronavirus on March 13, 2020; she has extended and amended the public health order several times since then.
“For over a year now, Alabamians, like people around the globe, have made sacrifices and adjusted to a temporary ‘new normal.’ We have learned much since last year, and this is absolutely now a managed pandemic. Our infection rates and hospitalizations are in better shape, and over 1.5 million Alabamians have had at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine,” Ivey said in a statement on Monday.
“Alabamians have consistently stepped up to the plate over the course of this pandemic, and I know they will continue to do so,” the governor added. “I am pleased that we have shown the rest of the country that we are gritty and determined. We are signaling loud and clear that Alabama is open, and we are moving forward.”
The new iteration of Ivey’s Safer Apart order consists primarily of recommendations aligned with CDC guidance. However, specific guidance applies to two groups, per the governor’s office. Senior Citizen Centers must continue to follow guidelines issued by the Alabama Department of Senior Services. Hospitals and nursing homes must follow current guidance from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services with respect to visitation. Barring a major spike in COVID-19 cases, these last remaining requirements should be lifted with the expiration of the state health order on May 31.
State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris stated, “As we approach the fourteenth month of this pandemic, we are pleased that two-thirds of Alabama residents age 65 and older have been vaccinated. While some barriers such as transportation remain, more than 1,300 providers in the state are administering safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine in communities throughout the state.”
“We are very appreciative of Governor Ivey and our excellent working relationship with the Alabama National Guard. The state is really fortunate to have these men and women to support us,” he continued. “Guard members have concluded six weeks of vaccination clinics in 24 rural and underserved counties, and now are planning smaller mobile sites in each public health district to offer vaccine to hard-to-reach populations. I am excited about the progress that has been made.”
As of April 5, all Alabamians ages 16 and older have been eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. Ivey continues to encourage Alabamians to get the safe and effective vaccine.
“Look, I have been vaccinated,” she concluded. “I believe in the science, believe that it works and have confidence in it. So, like I said, I have been fully vaccinated, and I will live like I have been fully vaccinated. Similar to when we ended the mask requirement, this final extension gives all Alabama health care providers, businesses and individuals adequate time to make preparations.”
Harris is set to give an update on herd immunity progress to the Alabama House Health Committee on Wednesday.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn