MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Drawing on a folksy social media moniker for a Southern grandmother that has followed her online for months, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said Wednesday that she’s “not trying to be Governor Memaw” as she announced the extension of the state’s safer at home order to fight COVID-19.
“I’m simply trying to urge you to use the common sense the good lord gave each of us, to be smart and considerate of others,” she explained.
“The mask mandate remains the one stop gap in order to keep the balance of our daily lives and maintaining health and safety,” Ivey said. “We returned to school, to church, and to work under the conditions of simply wearing a mask.”
Ivey made the announcement in a news conference with State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris. The two provided an update on Alabama’s response to the pandemic and plans for forthcoming vaccines.
“These are some of our darkest days since COVID-19 became a part of our daily conversations,” Ivey said as she encouraged people to continue wearing their masks and wash their hands.
Except for the date extension, all other guidelines in the safer at home order remain unchanged and in effect.
Those guidelines include social-distancing and sanitation rules for entertainment venues, athletic activities, schools, child care facilities, close-contact service providers and other businesses. Senior centers remain closed except for meals the must be made available only through curbside pick-up or delivery.
In early November, the state updated some of its restrictions on businesses. Under that updated order, emergency occupancy rates were removed for retailers, fitness centers and entertainment venues. And an exception was made to social distancing rules for many businesses, including barber shops, hair salons, gyms and restaurants, if people are wearing masks and separated by an “impermeable” barrier.
Ivey said she isn’t planning to tighten restrictions on businesses, even though Alabama is seeing skyrocketing hospitalizations and COVID cases.
The state’s hospitals are now treating nearly 2,100 inpatients for the disease as new positive tests continue to be confirmed as record highs. The seven-day average for new cases is 3,337.
“We really are in a difficult time right now in Alabama,” Harris said. “We are looking at some pretty dark days.”
Harris said the state expects to receive about 41,000 dozes of Pfizer’s vaccine, possibly within the next week, but stated there are only about 15 hospitals around the state that have the capability of storing it.
Harris did add that those 15 hospitals alone can still reach the majority of the state’s residents.
Delivery of a different vaccine product should follow in the weeks to come, and it can go to more places like clinics because of its better storage capacity.
“There’s just not going to be enough,” Harris warned, “and that’s just going to continue for a while.”
Health care workers and the elderly in nursing homes are the top priority for vaccinations, Harris confirmed.
It’s likely the average person won’t be able to get a vaccine before early summer.
“People have sacrificed so much. It’s been such a difficult year for everybody,” Harris went on. “I would say everybody knows someone who’s been sick from this disease, and most of you know someone who’s died from this disease. We still have some tough weeks ahead of us.”