Ivey extends mask mandate to March 5, cites need to continue mitigating post-holiday surge
MONTGOMERY — Alabama Governor Kay Ivey extended the state’s facial covering requirement another six weeks during a press conference at the state capitol on Thursday.
The mask mandate is now set to expire on Friday, March 5. Thursday’s extension came just over 24 hours before the measure had been set to lapse.
Ivey cited high hospitalization numbers and the larger effort required to deal with the post-holiday surge in explaining her decision.
Alabama’s mask order is now the sole remaining government-required coronavirus precaution of its type.
Businesses are still ordered to maintain social distancing at their locations and sanitize their facilities, but capacity limits are not in place and have not been since the first week of November.
Alabama’s updated version of the Safer-at-Home order is available here.
“The mask mandate remains the one step that we can all take in order to keep some balance in our daily lives, and stay healthy and safe,” said Ivey.
In addition to extending the mask requirement, the new order issued Thursday by the governor grants flexibility in recruiting poll workers to the administrators of upcoming elections both at the municipal and state level, similar to a measure she instituted in 2020.
A number of special elections for state house, state senate seats and certain municipal positions are set to occur in the coming months.
The mask mandate was first put into place in mid-July, and originally only scheduled to last two weeks. The governor has deemed its extension necessary several times in the intervening months.
Alabama’s mask mandate is now set to expire 8 days before the anniversary of the state’s first coronavirus case.
Health experts had urged Ivey to extend the measure while some conservative activists have pressured her to end the requirement.
Unlike the last extension of the mandate, which occurred on December 9, Thursday’s extension comes as cases have been falling steadily for over a week. However, new cases are still occurring at a higher rate than in July when the mandate was first deemed necessary.
Over the course of the pandemic, around 10% of all coronavirus cases have required treatment in the hospital.
“At one point last week, of the 1,600 ICU beds in our state, 1,561 were occupied,” noted Ivey.
Conservative governors of states like Texas, Arkansas and South Carolina currently have statewide mask mandates in place, though neighboring Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Mississippi have not enacted such measures.
“Quite frankly, we’ve run out of ways to underscore the importance of taking this virus seriously,” remarked Ivey on Thursday, “In my opinion, it is not very complicated. Wear your mask, wash your hands, sanitize places where you work, and if you’re experiencing symptoms go get tested.”