At a news conference on Thursday, Alabama Gov. Ivey announced the extension of the statewide Safer at Home health order, including the mask mandate, until Oct. 2.
Ivey credited the mask mandate with the progress the state has made battling the surge in hospitalizations and case counts over past two months.
"Folks, I understand you don't want to wear the mask; I don't either. My glasses fog up; I can't understand what people are saying because of the muffled effect that the masks have on conversations," said Ivey. "I wish we didn't have to wear masks, but we're seeing significant drops in our hospitalizations and daily positive Covid-19 numbers. And I have no doubt that this is a result of our mask ordinance. Wearing a mask is simply the right thing to do. When you wear a mask, you are protecting the people in your office, church, school and your vulnerable family and friends."
The mask mandate requires all citizens to wear a face covering that covers the mouth and nostrils when within six feet of someone else not from the same household in indoor public spaces, in a vehicle operated by a transportation service and outdoors when 10 or more people are gathered. The requirement has a number of exceptions, including for children 6 years old or younger, a person with a medical condition or disability that prevents the wearing of a facial covering, or when someone is consuming food or drink at a restaurant, among other exceptions.
State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said the mask mandate, which was added to the health order in mid-July, has played a large role in helping reduce the transmission of Covid-19 in the state.
"We are cautiously optimistic with what we've been seeing recently since the governor's mask mandate with into effect," he said. "We have definitely seen improvements in our daily numbers of new cases, the daily average number of deaths are declining, the number of daily hospitalizations have declined significantly and are as low as they have been since before the Fourth of July holiday.
"All those are indicating that we have less transmission going on in the community. We believe the mask mandate is the reason for that."
As of Thursday morning, Alabama has had nearly 120,000 confirmed cases of patients with Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, more than 14,000 hospitalizations and nearly 2,000 deaths, with 86 more deaths listed as probable, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.
Dr. Don Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association, expressed appreciation for Ivey's extension of the mask mandate.
"Over the past week, hospitals have begun to see a decline in hospitalizations due to COVID-19, clearly a result of the increased use of masks and social distancing,” said Williamson in a news release. “Our hospitals are extremely grateful to the Governor and to our State Health Officer for extending the mask order through Oct. 2. The decrease in cases we’ve experienced is evidence that masks work to save lives and can help keep businesses and schools open.”