As COVID-19 cases across the state continues to rise, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced on Wednesday, July 15, that she was issuing a statewide face mask order.
This new face mask order is effective July 16 at 5 p.m. and goes through July 31. The order mandates that all individuals must wear a mask or facial covering that covers the nostrils and mouth when in public and within six feet of a person from another household in an indoor space open to the public, a vehicle operated by a transportation service or an outdoor public space where 10 or more people are gathered.
Ivey said that this new mask mandate is in response to the state’s quick rise in cases over the past two weeks.
“Overnight – last night – we had 2,141 new (COVID-19) cases,” Ivey said. “That is a new single day record for our state. Over a two-week period from June 29 to July 13 the total number of cases rose by 50 percent and the total number of hospitalizations during this same time period has also increased significantly.”
This mandate does not apply to any person under the age of six years old, any person with a medical condition or disability that prevents them from wearing a facial covering, any person consuming food or drink, any person obtaining a service – such as medical or dental procedures – that requires removal of facial coverings and any person who is required to remove the facial covering to confirm their identity, such as for security or screening purposes.
Exceptions are also made for exercise. Any person that is actively engaged in exercise in a gym or athletic facility is not mandated to wear a mask as long as the person maintains a six-feet separation from persons from another household. Also, any person directly participating in athletic activities or competition is exempt from this mandate. Any person in a swimming pool, lake or water attraction is also exempt.
Any person who is seeking to communicate with another person where the ability to see the person’s mouth is essential for communication – such as someone with hearing impairment – or any person speaking for broadcast to an audience is also exempt from the mandate.
Wearing a face mask while voting and religious worship is strongly encouraged but not mandated.
Also, first responders are exempt from the mandate if it is necessary to perform a public-safety function without a mask. Any person performing a job function in which wearing a facial covering is inconsistent with industry safety standards or safety protocols is also exempt.
While Ivey acknowledged that this mandate is very difficult to enforce – and that it is not something that she wanted to enforce – repeat offenders could be fined up to $500 and/or see jail time.
“This is going to be a difficult order to enforce but I know that the numbers and date over the last two weeks are deathly trending in the wrong direction,” Ivey said. “I am calling on everyone in our state to practice personal responsibility and wear a mask.”
Ivey said that ICUs and hospitals across the state are in danger of being overrun and steps must be taken to prevent that from happening.
“We are almost at the point where our hospital ICUs are overwhelmed,” Ivey said. “Over 87 percent of hospital beds statewide are occupied. The numbers do not lie.”
Ivey said that if things don’t change, another statewide shutdown could be enfored and this mask mandate is an attempt to slow down COVID-19 without doing that.
“I reserve the right to come back and reverse course and this mask mandate is the first step in doing that,” Ivey emphasized. “Clearly there is more restrictive actions we could take but I do not want to go there unless there is no other options.
“To have a life you need a livelihood and the economy and the livelihood of our state weighs heavy on my heart every day. Moreover, to keep our businesses open and our economy on a pathway to recovery it is vitally important for our people to earn a paycheck. You cannot work if you are not healthy. I am trusting the people of Alabama to do the right thing and wear a mask. With everyone’s cooperation we can slow down the spread of this virus.”
Masks or facial coverings can be factory-made, homemade or improvised from household items such as scarves, bandanas or T-shirts. For instructions on how to make a facial covering at home, visit t https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/preventgetting-sick/how-to-make-cloth-face-covering.html.
Nothing else about Ivey’s “Safer at Home” order has been changed.