MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Gov. Kay Ivey announced Wednesday she will extend the state’s amended safer at home order, which includes the mandatory use of face masks in public.
The order was set to expire on July 31 but will continue until 5 p.m. on Aug. 31.
Much of the amended safer at home order remains the same, but the governor has updated it in one area. As the state prepares for the new school year, the order will require masks be used in schools and colleges, where possible, for employees and students in the second grade and above.
“We don’t have the luxury of not getting our young people back in school,” Ivey said. “I respect those districts that have elected to go to virtual classrooms. I feel with all my heart that a slide will come by keeping our kids at home, especially if there are other options. And that slide is likely to have a dramatic, negative impact on Alabama’s future, our young people.”
Asked if the governor was contemplating any actions that would require businesses to close again, she said “we just simply do not need to close our businesses, if at all possible, we need to keep up people being able to earn a good livelihood.”
" I think, clearly, what we’re trying to do is reduce transmission of disease, and that’s what we most want to see,” said State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris as he provided an update on the state’s COVID-19 cases and efforts to slow the spread.
“I want to say thank you to Governor Ivey for extending this order. I think that’s absolutely the right thing to do. I fully support that. I’m very aware that many people don’t like the idea of having to wear a face covering and, certainly, I don’t either. And I know people don’t like being told what to do, and I don’t either. But I do believe that it’s the right thing to do.”
Ivey issued the statewide mandatory mask order on July 15, which requires citizens to wear a mask in public when interacting within six feet of people from a different household.
The state is approaching the two-week mark since the mask order went into effect. In that time, Alabama has confirmed 22,000 cases of the disease. But Harris said it’s too early to show if the state’s curve is flattening out, adding that health officials are still seeing the effects of the July 4th holiday and that hospitals are setting all time highs for patients.
Harris said hospitals that are at maximum capacity can create alternate care sites or pop up hospitals, and that the Alabama National Guard is currently assessing locations for this. The Alabama Department of Public Health is also working on individual requests to access federal funding for the operation.