Masks will be required in Alabama public spaces until July 31

Masks will be required in Alabama public spaces until July 31
By Fran Thompson
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey has issued an amended Safer At Home Order requiring everyone in Alabama to wear a mask or other facial covering when they are in public and in close contact with other people beginning on Thursday, July 16 at 5 p.m.
The order, which will replace all local mask orders and provide a statewide rule, extends until July 31 at 5 p.m. It stipulates only that face coverings cover people’s nostrils and mouth.
Businesses are asked to take reasonable steps to encourage mask use by employees and customers. A business is not required to deny entry to people who are mask-less, but they always retain the right to do so. “And doing so would certainly be a reasonable step to encourage mask use,’’ Ivey said.
Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, had already announced that as of July 19, all shoppers will be required to wear masks when inside of their supermarkets. Montgomery, Birmingham and Mobile are among Alabama cities already requiring people to wear masks in public.
“This mask order is hard to enforce. But I asking everyone in our state to take personal responsibility and wear a mask,’’ Gov. Ivey said. “You shouldn’t have to be ordered to do what is in your own best interest and in the best interest of those you know and love.’’
Specifically, the order requires people to wear a mask when within six feet of a person from another household in an indoor space open to the public. Masks are also required when using public transportation services and while outdoors in public space where ten or more people are gathered.
The order lists exceptions for “practical necessity,” such as people with medical conditions or disabilities. There are also exceptions for exercise, communicating with an audience and certain essential job functions.
Children six or younger will not be required to wear a mask, and an additional category carves out narrow exceptions for protected activities like voting and religious worship.
The required facemasks can be 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,’’ Gov. Ivey said.
Gov. Ivey said COVID-19 cases rose by 50 percent in a two week period in Alabama and nine of the first 13 days in July saw daily increases of more than 1,000 cases. There were confirmed 40 coronavirus deaths, a record for the most in a single day in Alabama on July 14.
State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said today (July 15) will also break records with between 40 and 45 new deaths and today will be the ninth straight day in which more than 1,000 people were hospitalized.
Harris added that a full one-third of the state’s cases have been added in the last two weeks and that the number is not a reflection of increased testing. The percentage of positive tests is climbing. For the current week, he expects a positive test rate of around 17 percent.
“Clearly we have more disease circulating in our community,” Dr. Harris said.
Fewer than 15 percent of intensive care beds are available for new patients, and some hospitals are completely out of room, Dr. Harris said.
“We are almost to the point where our hospital ICUs are overwhelmed,’’ Gov. Ivey said. “We are almost out of ICU units folks. The numbers do not lie.’’
The penalty for violating the order can result in a $500 fine or even jail time, but the goal is cooperation and not enforcement, Gov. Ivey said. She said if people follow the order, it will help the state to stay open and preserve the livelihood of small business owners and workers while COVID-19 continues its upward spiral in the state.
“We’re pleading with the people of Alabama to wear a mask,” Gov. Ivey said.