MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - An adjustment to the state health order means another adjustment for business owners.
On Thursday, Alabama made the decision to continue with a mask mandate, and extend the state’s emergency COVID-19 health order, through April 9.
Ivey, who stated that masks have been one of the best tools available to fight the pandemic, wanted to be “abundantly clear” that this will be her last extension that imposes a state requirement on people to wear a mask in public and in businesses. Once it expires, she said it will be up to the individual person and businesses to determine if face masks will be used.
The decision to lift the statewide mask mandate after April 9 has come with mixed reaction from Alabamians.
Some believe it is still too soon.
“I think that we all should wear the masks until this thing is over,” said Roy Noel, a shopper heading into Walmart. “I’m even thinking of double masking even though I have the vaccination twice.”
Others said they are glad to have the choice to decide.
“I’m glad that Governor Ivey gave everybody the freedom of choice,” said Montgomery resident Hugh Scott. “People are frustrated. They’re smart enough to take care of themselves. Business owners are the same way, and I think it’s about time.”
The announcement gives businesses over 30 days to think through their next steps. Some businesses will decide to adjust their policies, and others will decide to keep operating the way they have been.
“I think the mask is important,” said William Moon, owner of Tuny Custom T-Shirts.
Moon said his store has a “no masks, no entry” policy and he plans to keep it that way even after April 9th.
“In my shop, it’s required,” Moon said.
Some of Moon’s customers said they respect the decision for business owners to continue to require a mask.
“I am personally still gonna wear a mask,” said shopper Kevin Spraggins. “The mask helps not only us, but also it helps the other person who isn’t wearing the mask.”
“We have older people out here that need to be protected from COVID, and if anything we are putting everybody at risk. And with us putting everybody at risk, we need to wear masks everywhere that we go,” said another shopper John Caster.
“Gov. Kay Ivey made a wise decision to give employers a more than 30-day notice of lifting the mask mandate,” said Alabama Retail Association President Rick Brown. “She has given employers time to think through next steps and implement or adjust their policies. Many in our membership interact constantly with the general public and required face coverings for entry into their stores and places of businesses even before the mandate. They will still have that option after April 9.”
Hair Etc., a hair salon next door to Tuny’s, said they plan to continue to sanitize as they always have, but a decision on whether or not masks will continue to be mandatory after April 9 has not been made yet.
“We’ll be looking at the numbers, seeing how the vaccine has had an effect on everyone, and see if it (COVID case numbers) has come down enough for us to feel safe about it,” said Hair Etc. co-owner Michell Day. “If not, then yeah we’ll still be wearing masks. We’ll just have to evaluate that when we get there.”
After all, evaluating what to do next is nothing new for small businesses. Under the updated order; restaurants, bars and breweries will also no longer require a limit on party sizes at tables. Establishments will still, however, be required to have partitions or 6 feet between tables and additional sanitation rules and guidelines.
Baron Goings, Assistant Manager of Farmer’s Market Café in downtown Montgomery, said they plan to let customers decide if they feel comfortable sitting at a table with a larger group.
“That’s probably going to impact some groups as they come in, and feel a little bit more comfortable having a larger group,” Goings said. “We’re really going to leave it up to them as to how comfortable they are being that close together. We do have a large room in the back that we could use for parties like that.”
Goings speaks for all business owners when he said they are ready to return to some sense of normal in a way that will make it most safe for their staff and customers.
“I think we’re all hopeful that there’s gonna be a finish line to the masks and the social distancing,” Goings said. “We know it’s gonna take a while, it’s not gonna happen all at once, but it’s encouraging to see a trend that’s heading in the direction that we like to see it head.”
On Wednesday, the Alabama Department of Public Health reported that Alabama surpassed 10,000 COVID-19 deaths. There have been nearly 500,000 total cases of coronavirus in Alabama since the start of the pandemic almost one year ago.
According to ADPH, over 1,4 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been delivered to Alabama, and just over 1 million of those, or about 68 percent, have been administered.