Governor’s extended health order leaves mask ordinances in hands of municipalities

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Alabama Governor Kay Ivey announced Tuesday she is extending the Safer At Home Order until July 31. This means Alabamians will be expected to follow the same guidelines they have been following since April 30. They are the same guidelines that have left some municipalities to create more stringent and effective ordinances to fight the spread of COVID-19.

When the “Safer At Home” order went into effect at the end of April, 7,000 people had tested positive for COVID-19 in Alabama, according to the Department of Public Health. Since that time, the case count has grown to more than 37,500. State Health Director Scott Harris says 28% of those cases were confirmed in the last 14 days.

Tuesday the Governor did not change her order. She just asked people to follow it.

“Fact is folks, we are still in the thick of this virus, disease and it is deadly,” Governor Ivey said during the press conference.

More than 10,000 Alabamians tested positive for COVID-19 in the past two weeks. The positive case rate is 10.9%. That’s the highest it’s been since the pandemic began.

While the state health order will not be relaxed as scheduled it also will not become more restrictive.

“Well, folks not following restrictions we’ve offered. I mean we need to keep social distancing, wearing face masks, personal hygiene. We need to do the basics we’ve been told by the medical community to do. Lets just do it,” Governor Ivey said.

Governor Ivey stressed the importance of wearing masks.

“You shouldn’t have to order somebody to do something that is in their own best interest and that of the folks that you care about,” Governor Ivey said.

Twenty states across the US have made masks mandatory. In Alabama, several municipalities including Birmingham, Montgomery and Selma as well as Jefferson County, have created a mask ordinance. Decatur city officials will discuss an ordinance Tuesday night.

Over the past week, elected officials in Madison County have explained why they are hesitant to make them mandatory.

“Well, you know there’s people that believe they want to preserve their freedoms, if they don’t want to wear one, they don’t believe they should be made to wear one,” said Dale Strong, Madison County Commission Chairman.

Governor Ivey says she will not mandate masks.

“Y’all, Dr. Harris and I can order you to wear a mask, but it would be next to impossible to enforce,” Governor Ivey said.

Leaving this decision completely up to local governments. And since there are more than 450 municipalities in the state, there are hundreds of decisions to be made about one common goal, the goal of stopping the spread of COVID-19.

Governor Ivey stressed the importance of not overwhelming hospitals and said people need to follow the Safer At Home order so she does not have to replace it with another Stay At Home order.

Dr. Harris said there are currently more than 700 people hospitalized in Alabama for COVID-19 and only 275 ICU beds are open across the state.

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