By EMILY SHAPIRO, ABC News
(MONTGOMERY, Ala.) — Alabama’s governor said Thursday she is extending the state’s mask mandate until April 9.
“After April the 9th I will not keep the mask order in effect,” Gov. Kay Ivey said at a news conference.
“We’ve kept the mask mandate in place for more than a generous period of time because it’s helped,” she said. “We’ve seen dramatic results and real progress being made.”
This week the state reached its lowest average for daily new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations since June, she said.
“Even with this positive news … we need to get past Easter and hopefully allow more Alabamians to get their first shot” of the vaccine before removing the mask order, Ivey said.
“If businesses believe wearing masks are important to keeping their doors open & their employees and customers safe — and many do — then they’ll have five weeks from today to get ready to impose their own policies,” Ivey tweeted.
Ivey also announced the easing of several restrictions: seating limits at restaurants will be loosened; outdoor programs will be allowed at senior centers with safety guidelines; two visitors, instead of one, will be allowed at hospitals and nursing homes; and summer camps can resume.
Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth had urged for a lift of the statewide mask mandate, tweeting Wednesday, “I urge Gov. Kay Ivey to immediately lift the statewide mask mandate and allow citizens and local officials the liberty to make the decisions that best fit their circumstances.”
The governor said a mask mandate “has been the right thing to do” but she respects those who believe “that was a step too far in government overreach.”
Ivey’s announcement comes days after Texas and Mississippi announced the end of mask mandates.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday the state’s mask mandate would end March 10 and all businesses can reopen at full capacity.
“It is now time to open Texas 100%,” Abbott said. “COVID has not suddenly disappeared … but it is clear from the recoveries, from the vaccinations, from the reduced hospitalizations, and from the safe practices that Texas are using, that state mandates are no longer needed.”
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves also announced Tuesday that county mask mandates would be lifted and businesses can “operate at full capacity without any state-imposed rules.”
“Our hospitalizations and case numbers have plummeted, and the vaccine is being rapidly distributed,” Reeves tweeted. “It is time!”
Dr. Anthony Fauci on Wednesday called Abbott’s decision “ill-advised.”
“It is really quite risky,” Fauci said in a livestream with United Food and Commercial Workers International Union President Marc Perrone.
“If you look at the amount of infection that is in the community right now, even though the slope is coming down sharply, if you look at the last seven day average, it’s plateaued,” Fauci said. “That’s a dangerous sign because when that has happened in the past, when you pull back on measures of public health, invariably you’ve seen a surge back up.”
President Joe Biden on Wednesday called Abbott’s decision “Neanderthal thinking.”
“I hope everybody has realized by now these masks make a difference,” Biden told reporters in the Oval Office.
“And the last thing, the last thing, the last thing we need is the Neanderthal thinking that in the meantime everything’s fine, take off your mask,” Biden said. “It’s critical, critical, critical, critical that they follow the science.”
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