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UPDATED: Gov. Ivey implements mandatory mask order

In a press conference Wednesday morning, Gov. Kay Ivey implemented a mandatory mask order beginning July 16 at 5 p.m. and expiring on July 31 at 5 p.m.

“At our last press conference on June 30, two weeks ago, we extended our safer at home order until the end of July. Some of you will recall, while at that time Dr. [Scott] Harris and I could order you to wear a mask, it would be almost impossible to enforce. I also remember saying, you shouldn’t have to be ordered to do what’s in your best interest and in the best interest of those you know and love,” Ivey said. I still believe this is going to be a difficult order to enforce, and I always prefer personal responsibility over a government mandate. Yet I also know, with all my heart, that the numbers and data from the last two weeks are trending in the wrong direction.”

Ivey cited the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases in the state of Alabama in the last two weeks. The current safer at home order will remain the same until it also expires on July 31. The rest of the stay at home order remains the same.

The ordinance says people should wear masks if they are in public and in close contact with people. This means if a person is outside, within 6-feet of someone from a different household, public transportation or in an outdoor space with more than 10 people, that a mask should be worn.

The punishment for not following the ordinance is a $500 fine or potential jail time.

“We’re not asking our sheriffs and police officers to go out looking for people that are not wearing a mask and arrest them, but we are asking people to do a better job social distancing, personal hygiene and now wearing face masks,” Ivey said. “As hard as it is to admit, we’re learning to live life with COVID-19.”

Alabama is one of the hotbeds for COVID-19 in the country, as there were 2,141 new cases statewide, bringing the total number of COVID-19 positive results to 58,270 cases. 

Tuesday’s total cases was a new daily record. 

In the last two weeks, the number of cases rose statewide by 50%. Nine of the first 13 days of July had daily increases of  more than 1,000 cases

“We’re almost to the point where our hospital ICUs are overwhelmed,” Ivey said. “Earlier this week, 87% of our ICU beds were occupied. Folks, the numbers just do not lie.”

State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris further elaborated on the numbers.

A third of the number of cases have been added in the last two weeks, according to Harris. 

“We have added more than 18,000 cases in the last two weeks alone,” Harris said. “That’s not a reflection of testing because our percentage of tests that are positive continues to go up.”

The percentage of positive tests before the Fourth of July weekend was about 14%. Harris said the preliminary results from the Fourth of July weekend are going to be in the 16 to 17 percent range.

“Clearly, we have more disease in our communities,” Harris said. “Alabama is not heading in the right direction, and I think this mask ordinance is the right thing to do because it will prevent disease transmission. We really don’t have a lot of options at this time.”

Chambers County has had 101 new cases in the last 14 days. It has tested 905 people for an 11% positive rate.

Harris said the state’s economy does not need to be shut back down as long as people are complying with the new mask ordinance.