MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - After over a year with a statewide mask mandate in place, some businesses in Alabama are preparing to take their masks off.
On Wednesday, Gov. Kay Ivey said that Alabama is shifting to personal responsibility in the fight against COVID-19, and that the statewide mask order will expire on Friday. The move gives business owners the freedom to decide whether or not masks will still be a requirement inside of their establishments.
When the state mandate ends, local mandates can be reactivated. Some local governments have already taken action, including Montgomery.
However, just 30 minutes down the road from Montgomery in Prattville, local business owners are changing their store policies.
“Everyone’s ready to get rid of them,” said Linda McWilliams, owner of Victoria’s Boutique in downtown Prattville. “They are ready to stop wearing masks.”
McWilliams said after the mask mandate is lifted it will be up to her customers to decide if they want to wear a mask.
“I don’t really require a mask in my store and I haven’t for probably the last couple of months,” McWilliams said. “It’s totally up to my customers. If they’re more comfortable wearing a mask that’s fine with me, but I don’t wear one.”
The store owner said her business is small and only has around 20 customers inside a day, making the risk less severe.
“It’s a small store. I don’t have a lot of people in and out of here, and I just feel like their safe in a smaller business,” she said.
Meanwhile, across the street from Victoria’s Boutique, a “face masks required” sign hangs out front of Smart Skin Spa and Salon. It’s a sign the business said will stay there after the mandate expires, but won’t be heavily enforced.
“It won’t necessarily be required,” said Smart Skin Spa and Salon manager Catalena Ellis. “It’s kind of going to be up to each customer. If they feel comfortable taking it off then that’s fine, if they feel better leaving it on that’s fine too.”
Their employees, however, will be required to wear one during certain situations, like when face to face with clients.
“Our technicians, most of them are still gonna be wearing a mask,” Ellis said. “Some of our hairstylists won’t be, but for the most part the rest of us will be.”
The salon did say social distancing and sanitizing protocols will also continue to be in place.
At Fat Boys BBQ Ranch, owner Danny Loftin said neither employees nor customers will have to wear a mask after the mandate is lifted.
“We are excited about tomorrow, that we don’t have to wear the mask anymore,” Loftin said. “And I think the customers and a lot of folks here in town will be as well.”
Loftin said he is personally “tired of breathing through a fabric cloth mask.”
Despite the masks no longer being required, Loftin said their tables will still be socially distanced and disinfecting protocols will be in place.
“We want to make this as safe and as healthy a dining experience as possible,” Loftin said. “But we are excited, we want everybody to come and enjoy some good barbecue and a great dining experience.”
Ivey said that while the state will no longer require mask use after April 9, people are still strongly urged to continue their use while in public or in close contact with others.
In the 13 months since Alabama first confirmed a case of the respiratory diseases, more than 10,600 people have died as a result.
Some corporate chains will be still be requiring masks in Alabama after April 9. Some of which include; Costco, CVS, Walmart, Target and Home Depot.
The Alabama Retail Association has more guidance for businesses owners in regards to face coverings inside their establishments.