Alabama’s statewide mask mandate is being extended through 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 11 Gov. Kay Ivey announced Thursday morning.
The order is Ivey’s 19th supplemental emergency proclamation and also includes an amendment on regulations for small businesses.
Most everything is staying the same but some things did change in the order:
• Emergency occupancy rates will be removed for retailers, gyms and fitness centers and entertainment venues
• An exception to social distancing rules will be allowed for many businesses including barber shops, hair salons, gyms and restaurants if people are wearing masks and separated by an impermeable barrier
Ivey praised Alabamians for their resolve but cautioned against mask fatigue.
“I understand folks are bone-dead tired of the mask,” she said. “I understand that; I’m tired of it too.”
However, the mask is the only way small businesses can safely increase their capacities ahead of the holiday season, she said.
When asked whether she’d be willing to lift the mask order before a vaccine, Ivey neither confirmed nor denied the possibility.
“We’ve just got to watch the numbers and do what’s practical and reasonable now,” she said.
The order comes amid a 22,000-person increase in COVID-19 cases in Alabama in the past 14 days. The current test positivity rate is 9.8%, while statewide hospitalizations are hovering around 1,000, state health officer Dr. Scott Harris said during the governor’s live press conference.
“We are seeing an increase in the number of cases somewhat,” Harris said.
Despite this increase in the rate of cases, Alabama has not reached the hospitalization capacities some of the other states are currently seeing, Harris said.
Harris also cautioned against large gatherings during Thanksgiving and the holiday season.
“This is the time for people to really be careful about who they gather with,” he said. “We all want to get together to be with our family this holiday time, and yet, this is a special year.”
Harris suggested celebrating virtually or outdoors whenever possible. Multiple households gathering for Thanksgiving should try to maintain social distance.
Harris also reminded Alabamians not to ignore their symptoms.
“If you don’t feel well, please stay home,” he said.
The Alabama Department of Public Health reports 200,000 Alabamians have tested positive in the coronavirus pandemic so far, representing 4% of the state’s population while 3,000 have died of COVID-19.