Despite the decisions by Texas’ and Mississippi’s governors to lift mask mandates, one neighboring deep red state announced in early March that it is not following suit. For now, the Alabama mask mandate will stay in place.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, in a break with fellow Republican governors in the South, announced on March 4 that the state’s mask mandate would stay in place until at least April 9—a date chosen in part to correspond after the 2021 Easter observance.
“We need to get past Easter and hopefully allow more Alabamians to get their first shot before we take a step some other states have taken to remove the mask order altogether and lift other restrictions,” Ivey said in her news conference, according to the Associated Press. She added, “Folks, we are not there yet, but goodness knows we’re getting closer.”
CNN noted that the announcement came as part of the state’s broader “Safer at Home” order, which includes the mask mandate and other measures. The order had been set to expire on March 8.
However, it will be the last time the order is extended, Ivey pledged, and Alabama would then join at least 16 other states in operating without a statewide mask mandate.
“While I’m convinced that a mask mandate has been the right thing to do, I also respect those who object and believe this was a step too far in government overreach,” Ivey said.
“There’s no question that wearing masks has been one of my greatest tools in combating the virus,” she added, according to the New York Times. She also remarked, “Even when we lift the mask order, I will continue to wear my mask while I’m around others and strongly urge my fellow citizens to use common sense and do the same.”
Alabama, like a number of other states, hasn’t been able to vaccinate much of its population. Only about 13% of Alabama’s 4.9 million people have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, though State Health Officer Scott Harris said dose numbers arriving in the state are increasing. If the state can get a cumulative total of 1.75 million shots delivered by early April, Harris that would be a “terrific place to be.”
The Ivey announcement on the renewed Alabama mask mandate comes at a time seen by Biden Administration officials as a critical juncture in the fight against the pandemic.
The Times article noted that “in recent days, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, has been pleading with state officials not to relax health precautions now, warning about the trajectory of cases nationwide and the detection of more cases of virus variants across the country.”
“We are just on the verge of capitalizing on the culmination of a historic scientific success: the ability to vaccinate the country in just a matter of three or four more months,” Walensky said on March 3 following the Texas and Mississippi mask mandate repeals. “How this plays out is up to us. The next three months are pivotal.”
And President Biden himself criticized lifting mask mandates as “Neanderthal thinking” and a “big mistake,” though as The Hill reported, that prompted Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) to defend Neanderthals as “resilient” and “resourceful” despite their 30,000-year absence from the planet.
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