Ivey extends mask order until Dec. 11, removes some restrictions on businesses
MONTGOMERY — Alabama Governor Kay Ivey announced Thursday that she is altering the state’s Safer-at-Home order to put fewer restrictions on businesses, but is also extending the mask mandate until December 11.
Ivey held a press conference in the State Capitol alongside State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris to brief the public on the state of the pandemic in Alabama and the ongoing government response. The loosened Safer-at-Home order will go into effect on Sunday, November 8.
Retailers, gyms and entertainment venues in the state will no longer have a limit on the number of customers they can allow on their premises.
Gyms, restaurants, salons and other close contact service providers are now permitted to seat people closer than six feet apart provided they put up partitions; which the order describes as “impermeable barriers.”
Before Thursday’s announcement, retailers and other establishments had been forced to limit the number of customers they let inside since May 11.
The mask mandate, first introduced as a two-week measure in the middle of July, appears to be on the path to removal after Thursday’s extension expires. It is now the primary and most expansive remaining government-mandated coronavirus precaution.
“I know you can’t go on forever with a government mandate,” the governor said Thursday, adding, “sooner or later” it will be up to each person to follow the proper precautions.
The amended Safer-at-home order still keeps certain restrictions in places, such as rules about hospital and nursing home visitation. The full order can be read here.
Ivey’s announcement comes at a time when Alabama’s coronavirus cases are climbing. The state’s seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases is 1,104, a metric that has been climbing steadily for around three weeks, according to BamaTracker.
Hospitalizations have risen but not yet seen as pronounced an increase as new cases, though hospitalizations have traditionally lagged an increase in cases by around two weeks. Alabama recently exceeded 3,000 confirmed deaths of patients who had the coronavirus.
Though Ivey loosened restrictions, some institutions are likely to keep in place certain precautions of their own volition; movie theaters were already restricting capacity to a lower level than required by law before the state order was amended on Thursday. University of Alabama and Auburn University football games, though not for the purposes of the order considered entertainment venues, have similarly restricted their capacities to a lower percentage than required by the state.
Alternatively, the ability for stores to allow more customers inside comes just before the holiday shopping season. Ivey mentioned the considerations of holiday shopping at the press conference, saying she thought it would be good “especially for our locally owned businesses.”
While opponents of the governor’s mandate have been vocal and mounted campaigns on social media, Ivey has remained popular with the broader public during the pandemic. A recent poll showed 58% of Alabamians viewed her favorably, including 71% of Republicans.
The governor acknowledged the frustrations of mask-wearing during her briefing, saying, “I understand folks are tired of the mask. I am, too.”
In the South, statewide mask mandates are also in place in states such as Texas and Arkansas, while they have been publicly eschewed in states like Florida and Georgia.
“We are truly grateful to the people of Alabama for their support and understanding,” the governor said Thursday.