Southern Governor Breaks with Fellow Republicans to Extend Mask Mandate


Breaking with other Southern GOP governors, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey extended her state’s mask mandate for another month on Thursday but said the order will end for good in April.

Ivey said she will keep the mask requirement that was set to expire Friday in place until April 9.

“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. Folks, we are not there yet, but goodness knows we’re getting closer,” Ivey said at a news conference.

Ivey has faced political pressure to lift the mask order as some other Republican-led states have done.

Texas and neighboring Mississippi are easing restrictions as vaccination numbers rise and COVID-19 cases decline.

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The governor called masks “one of our greatest tools” in preventing the virus’ spread but emphasized that she will not extend the mask mandate further, saying it will become a matter of personal choice when the order ends.

“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,” Ivey said.

Alabama’s seven-day average of daily cases has dropped from 3,000 in early January to below 1,000 and hospitalizations are at their lowest point since summer.

So far about 13 percent of Alabama’s 4.9 million people have received one dose of a vaccine, according to state numbers.

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State health official Scott Harris said vaccine supplies are increasing and if the state can get a total of 1.75 million shots delivered by early April, that would be a “terrific place to be.”

Harris said about 500,000 people in the state have tested positive for the virus.

“We are striving to reach this herd immunity point at some point,” Harris said.

The Alabama Senate approved a resolution on Wednesday evening urging Ivey to end the mask mandate.

Republican Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth also asked Ivey to end the mask requirement, which he has opposed all along, saying individuals can make decisions for themselves “without a Big Brother-style government mandate looming over us.”

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The governor did lift some restrictions on how many people can sit at a restaurant table, but tables are still required to be 6 feet apart or have a partition.

The order also allowed senior citizens to resume some activities and hospitals to increase the number of visitors patients can have from one to two.

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