MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) – With the rising number of coronavirus cases across Alabama every day, Gov. Kay Ivey has put into effect a statewide face mask requirement.
During a press conference Wednesday, Ivey said that between June 29 and July 13, the total number of COVID-19 cases statewide rose by 50% and that in the first nine days of July, the state averaged 1,000 new cases per day.
As of Wednesday, there have been 58,225 COVID-19 cases reported across Alabama since late March.
“Despite our best efforts, we are seeing increased cases every day are still occurring and we’re almost to the point where our hospital ICUs are overwhelmed,” Ivey said.
As part of the order, which will run from 5 p.m. Thursday to 5 p.m. July 31, Alabamians will be required to wear a mask or other facial covering when in public and in close contact with other people, as described in the order.
Outside of cities like Birmingham and Tuscaloosa—who have put their own face mask ordinances in place—Ivey was previously cautious to announce a statewide order, citing the difficulty in enforcing it. However, with new cases every day, she says she felt something needed to change.
“Folks, I still believe this is going to be a difficult order to enforce and I always prefer personal responsibility over a government mandate, and yet I also know, with all my heart, that the numbers and data over the past few weeks have been trending in the wrong direction,” she said. “Once again, I’m calling on everyone in our state to take personal responsibility and wear a mask. I continue to believe that personal responsibility is everyone’s responsibility.”
Ivey says that there is a fine of up to $500 and possible jail time for those who do not wear masks or face-coverings, but at it is not her goal to punish anyone.
In addition, State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said it was his hope that the order would slow the spread of the virus.
“Alabama is not heading in the right direction,” Harris said. “I believe this mask ordinance is the right thing to do.”
“Safer at Home” Mask Requirement
Frequently Asked Questions
- When do I have to wear a mask?
You have to wear a mask when you are in public and in close contact with other people. Specifically, the order says to wear a mask when you are within six feet of a person from another household in any of the following places: (a) an indoor space open to the public; (b) a vehicle operated by transportation service; and (c) an outdoor public space where ten or more people are gathered.
- Do young children have to wear a mask? What about people who are exercising? In other
words, are there any exceptions to the mask-wearing requirement?
There are five categories of exceptions. The largest category, exceptions for “practical necessity,” covers people or situations where mask use is incompatible with the realities of life—for example, children six or younger, people with certain medical conditions or disabilities, eating and drinking, medical and dental procedures, and so on. There are also categories of exceptions for exercise, for communicating with an audience, and for certain essential job functions. An additional category carves out narrow exceptions for protected activities like voting and religious worship—but even then, wearing a mask is strongly encouraged.
- What kind of face mask is required?
The requirement allows all kinds of masks to be used—whether store-bought, homemade, or
improvised from household items like scarves, bandanas, or t-shirts. The key is for the mask to
cover your nostrils and mouth. For instructions on how to make your own mask, see the CDC’s
“How to Make Cloth Face Coverings,” available here.
- I live in a city or county that already has a local mask order. Am I supposed to follow my
local order or this new statewide order?
Follow this new statewide order. While this order is in effect, it will replace all local mask rules to provide a uniform, statewide rule.
- I am a business owner. What does this order mean for my business?
The order requires businesses to take reasonable steps, where practicable, to encourage mask
use by employees and customers. One example of a reasonable step might be to post signs
encouraging customers and patrons to wear a mask. Although a business is not required to deny entry to people who are mask-less, they always retain the right to do so—and doing so would certainly be a reasonable step to encourage mask use.
- How long will the new mask requirement be in effect?
The new mask requirement goes into effect Thursday, July 16, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. It is currently set to expire on July 31, 2020.