Miranda Prescott, News Editor
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey announced in a press conference on Thursday that the current mask order in the state would be extended until April 9. Ivey indicated that this would be the final time the mandate would be extended.
“We are extending it for another five weeks so businesses can make their own mask policies that they can put in place to keep themselves and their employees safe,” said Ivey. “After this point, it will be up to the individual to decide whether they need a mask or not, not up to the government.”
Ivey cited concerns over the upcoming spring break events and the Easter holiday causing another spike in cases, and hopefully allowing citizens of the state to receive their first doses of the vaccine.
“We’re definitely having an indication that we are moving in the right direction,” said Ivey. “Folks, we’re not there yet, but goodness knows we are getting closer.”
Ivey also said that the mandate will have an ease on restrictions, allowing for outdoor programming at senior centers and for summer camps to be fully operational after tomorrow, March 5. She also said that they will now allow two caregivers at a time in senior care centers and hospitals to be with their loved ones at a time.
“Even as we lift the mask order, I will continue to wear my mask when I am around others, and I encourage others to use common sense and do the same thing,” Ivey added.
As of Tuesday, Ivey said that the average number of new COVID-19 cases in the state is 778 per day. This is said to be an 82% drop in cases since the high reached on Jan. 10 and the lowest average of new cases since late June.
Ivey also said the seven day average of COVID hospitalizations is down to 686, a 77% drop and the lowest average since June 29.
Some speculated — particularly after Texas and Mississippi axed their mask mandates — that Ivey would end the mandate, following suit with other Southern states.
“As I said, I know some of the other states are starting to lift restrictions, and we’ve been relaxing ours every chance we could,” Ivey explained. “While I’ve been convinced that a mask mandate has been the right thing to do, I also respect those who object and believe that this was a step too far in government reach.”
Scott Harris, the state health officer, announced that the state passed 10,000 COVID-19 deaths.
“Alabama loses about 52,000 to 53,000 people a year, and this past year has shown 64,000 deaths,” said Harris.
Harris also announced that the state had administered over one million COVID-19 vaccinations since receiving the first doses in January. There have been 1,200 sites, according to Harris, that have been registered to accept the vaccine, however, many of them have yet to receive any.
“We have received news that we will be receiving 100,000 of the first vaccine in the next week for both Pfizer and Moderna,” said Harris, “We also have 40,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine coming in as well.”
Harris said that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine distribution for the state would be the only one at this time for at least three weeks, as there has only been a small portion of these vaccines available at this time.