Governor expected to announce fate of Alabama mask order

Published 7:47 am Thursday, January 21, 2021

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey is expected to announce whether she will extend a statewide order requiring face masks in public during the coronavirus pandemic at a news conference on Thursday.

Medical officials have urged Ivey to extend the order amid the rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations, which has been hindered by a limited national supply.

Dr. Don Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association, said the group is among those recommending that Ivey issue an extension.

“While there has been some improvement in the hospital situation, there are still many more people in hospital than at the height of the surge in July. The continued significant levels of hospitalization, coupled with the emergence of more infectious variations, make mask-wearing even more urgent,” Williamson said
More than 6,200 people have died from COVID-19 in Alabama, and about 430,000 have tested positive.

Dr. Sarah Nafziger, vice president of Clinical Support Services at UAB Medicine, said masks remain “very, very important.”

“How long will we need to do that? I don’t know. It depends how quickly we get those vaccine doses and how quickly we can get them administered,” she said Tuesday.

Alabama this week began making vaccines available to people 75 and older in addition to health care workers and first-responders. Thousands of people flocked to health departments and hospitals after receiving vaccination appointments. A state appointment line was overwhelmed with calls and people expressed frustration at not being able to get through.

State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said the biggest obstacle to vaccination is the available supply. The state of nearly 5 million people has had 446,000 vaccine doses delivered so far, according to state numbers. The state has administered 184,000 doses so far.

“Every person who receives a COVID-19 shot is deserving of one and will receive it, as we are determined to make sure that no vaccine is sitting unused on the shelf. We are making every effort to get shots into arms as quickly as possible,” Harris said.