At a news conference, Ivey, a Republican, announced that from July 16 through the end of the month, all Alabamans must wear masks when out in public. She was joined at the news conference by state health officer Dr. Scott Harris.
“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,” she said.
She also noted that enforcement of the rules will be difficult. A violation of the order can result in a $500 fine or even jail time, although Dr. Harris, for his part, insisted that “no one is interested in arresting people.” Ivey, similarly, said that the order is about protecting people, not punishing them.
She also noted that Alabama is in the midst of a surge of cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus. On Wednesday, the Alabama Department of Public Health reported 2,141 new COVID-19 cases, as well as 47 new deaths on Wednesday, both of which are single-day records. That brings the total number of cases in the state to 56,441, according to WSFA, and 1,136 deaths from the disease.
Ivey said that hospitals in the state are on the verge of becoming overwhelmed.
It’s a belief backed up by Dr. Don Williamson, the president of the Alabama Hospital Association, who said previously that Alabama’s health care system cannot sustain a continuing increase in COVID-19 cases for much longer.
Ivey’s mandate specifies that a mask must be worn whenever someone is within six feet of another person from another household in an indoor space open to the public (such as a bar or restaurant); in a vehicle operated by a transportation service (such as a bus or train); or in an outdoor gathering of 10 or more people.
The order requires business owners to take “reasonable” steps to abide by the mandate, such as by erecting signs encouraging customers to wear masks. The order does not require businesses to deny entry to patrons not wearing masks.
Exceptions are made for children under the age of 6, people with breathing difficulties or other disabilities, or while undergoing “necessities of life,” such as eating, drinking, doing public speaking, or undergoing medical or dental procedures, for example.
The order does not specify what kind of mask must be worn, only that it must cover the mouth and nostrils.