By Hannah Lester
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced Thursday morning that the state’s safer-at-home order is still in place, along with its mask ordinance, though changes were made.
The press conference was held one day before the state’s stay-at-home order and mask mandate were set to expire.
“As of Tuesday, Alabama’s seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases was 778 per day,” Ivey said. “Ya’ll that’s an 82 percent drop from the high reached on Jan. 10 and the lowest average daily for new cases since June.”
Ivey said that despite the state moving in the right direction Ivey said that she would prefer to get past Easter before lifting the order entirely.
“But let me be abundantly clear, after April 9 I will not keep the mask order in effect,” she said.
This will also allow more Alabamians to be vaccinated before the ordinance is lifted, Ivey said.
“And even when we lift the mask order, I will continue to wear my mask when I’m around others,” Ivey said, and she encouraged others to do so as well.
Businesses will still be allowed to institute their own mask orders and five weeks to prepare, she said.
“But at that time, it will become a matter of personal responsibility and not government mandate,” Ivey said.
Some of the other changes to the order included allowing summer camps for this summer, allowing outdoor programs at senior centers and lifting capacity limits on restaurants.
“[This is a] small but important step in returning to whatever normal will soon be,” she said.
Additionally, two visitors will be allowed with patients at hospitals and senior centers.
“Hospitals and nursing homes need to update their visitation policies to accommodate this change,” she said.
The state has officially vaccinated 1 million people as of yesterday said State Health Officer Scott Harris.
“We do have reason for some optimism,” Harris said.
He shared unfortunate news too: the state had an excess of roughly 11,000 deaths than it would for the normal average.
Ivey urged patience as the state continues to vaccinate residents.
“I want to take one minute just to talk about vaccine equity,” Harris said. “ … As you know, all across the country it is African Americans in our country that are most at risk of dying from this disease.”
Harris said the state, like many other parts of the country, is using the social-vulnerability index to address vaccine inequity and help make sure priority groups receive the vaccine.
Alabama is striving for 150,000 shots a week, Harris said.
Ivey said that should COVID rear its ugly head again, the state wants to be prepared.
“We’re going to have a joint study on the COVID-19 process after we get out from under the mandate to look at just what we could have done better or what we did do good,” she said.
She said that she would hope the state could be prepared should it ever need a similar response.
“I’m convinced that a mask mandate has been the right thing to do, but I also respect those that object and believe this was too far in government reach,” she said.