Ivey extends mask order to Aug. 31; All teachers and students above 1st grade included
MONTGOMERY — Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Wednesday extended until August 31 the requirement that all Alabamians wear face masks when they are outside of their home and within six feet of others.
The extension specifies that all teachers and students above the first grade must wear masks whenever possible at school.
The mask order, which was initially put into place in the middle of July, was due to expire on July 31 until the governor extended it on Wednesday.
She made the announcement at a press conference with Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris.
The seven-day average of new coronavirus cases in Alabama is 1594, down from a high 1851 earlier in July.
The mask mandate in Alabama does not make businesses force customers to wear masks, but it does allow businesses to require masks if that business wants to do so.
The mandate also has several categories of exceptions, including for children and one called “practical necessity.”
UPDATE 11:35 a.m.
All previously existing precautions with regards to limiting restaurant and retail capacity remain in place.
Governor Ivey acknowledged the controversial nature of the mask order in comments on Wednesday, saying,”There is no way to make everyone happy 100% of the time.” She added, “When you’re elected governor you have to do the right thing, not always the popular thing.”
When asked about sheriffs who have said they will not enforce the state’s health order, Ivey responded that the purpose of the mandate was to inform the public, not penalize them.
Dr. Harris advised it was “a little early” for Alabama to take heart in the numbers that show new cases leveling off in recent days.
“Masks are the best tool we have,” Harris stated in regards to bringing down the state’s coronavirus numbers.
He said more than 5,100 healthcare workers have come down with COVID-19 since the pandemic reached Alabama in March, not including nursing home staff.
The state health officer remarked that his department has no specific number or benchmark they are considering that would automatically make him go to the governor and ask for stricter measures.
Ivey was asked whether she had considered closing more businesses in a similar fashion to recent measures by states such as Arizona, Florida and Texas.
“We simply do not need to close our businesses,” replied Ivey, asserting the importance she felt in people being allowed to earn a livelihood.
A member of the governor’s staff told Yellowhammer News that exceptions to the mask order within schools would include not wearing masks in P.E., at lunch or while completing assignments that necessitate reading aloud.
A previously existing exception for communicating appears to allow teachers to instruct without a mask on while in front of the classroom and socially distanced from students.
“I’m telling you we need to do everything we can to get our kids back in the classroom as soon as possible,” argues Ivey, who mentions her past as a school teacher.
— Henry Thornton (@HenryThornton95) July 29, 2020
This is breaking news and will be updated.