Alabama health leaders call for new statewide mask mandate

October 02 2021 06:00 pm

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – Health experts at UAB are calling on lawmakers to bring back a mask mandate.

During a press conference with health leaders on Wednesday, UAB Infectious Disease Expert Dr. Michael Saag said it’s time to put politics aside.

“Let’s work together, this is not politics, this is public health,” Saag said. “I don’t know why it isn’t clear to everyone, but it’s crystal clear to experts in the world of infectious diseases and public health. Masks work, so we should have, in my opinion, a statewide mask mandate for any indoor activity, including school.”

Democratic lawmaker Senator Rodger Smitherman from District 18 said he understands people want freedoms, but people with underlying health issues have those same rights to be safe.

“I think that we need to try and listen to science and if it tells us we need to do something we need to try our best to follow that,” Smitherman said. “We’re having a problem with this record creeping back up again, and I think that we don’t need to wait until we have a crisis before we decide to start doing some things that make sure that we try to stop that curve from going up.”

Republican lawmaker Representative Andrew Sorrell from House District 3 said he does not support mandates and that the decision needs to come from each person doing the right thing – not the government telling folks what to do.

“I don’t think a statewide mask mandate will slow down the delta variant because it sure didn’t slow down the original COVID,” Sorrell said. “The masks don’t work. You can look at the box. The box literally says does not protect against viral bacterial infections so why are we pretending that masks actually work?”  

Both lawmakers said they don’t foresee more than conversations for a mask mandate to come back unless the state health officer or governor implements one.

Saag said we would have lost World War II with the attitudes we are seeing in the public right now.

“[Health officials] are exhausted, frustrated, angry and the lack of the ability of our state and country to come together over this issue,” Saag said. “Put politics aside, forget public opinion, this is an emergency.”

One thing lawmakers and health leaders do agree on is that the vaccine is the best weapon to get past the spike in coronavirus cases we are seeing today, and they urge you to go out now and get vaccinated as soon as you can.

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