Kay Ivey extends Alabama mask order until Oct. 2

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Governor Kay Ivey and State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris ask citizens to continue wearing masks and use social distancing during a coronavirus update in the state capitol building in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday June 29, 2020. (Mickey Welsh/The Montgomery Advertiser via AP)

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Thursday announced she is extending a statewide mask order that she and health officials have credited with reducing COVID-19 cases in the state.

The Republican governor said the mask order, which had been set to expire next week, will be extended until Oct. 2. The governor also said she will keep in place other health orders, such as reducing occupancy in stores and limiting table seating in restaurants.

“Folks, I understand you don’t want to wear the mask. I don’t either,” Ivey said in a news conference at the Alabama Capitol.

“I wish we didn’t have to wear masks but we are seeing a drop in our hospitalizations and daily COVID-19 numbers,” Ivey said, adding that she believed it is because of the mask order.

The Republican governor has faced a mix of praise from health officials and criticism from some conservatives for the decision to issue the statewide mask order unlike some Southern governors.

State Health Officer Scott Harris said that with increased mask usage, the state has seen a corresponding drop in hospitalizations and the percentage of tests that are positive.

“We in public health believe the mandate has been very effective in lowering transmission,” Harris said earlier this week.

The Alabama Hospital Association had urged the extension of the mask order.

The order requires people to wear coverings over their noses and mouths when interacting within 6 feet of people outside their household. Masks are also required in schools and colleges, where possible, for students in second grade and above.

The average daily cases county has dropped from above 1,500 cases per day to less than 1,000 and the percent of tests returning as positive dropped from a high of 16.5% last month to 8% last week.

The U.S. surgeon general said last week in a visit to the state that Alabama remains in the “red zone” for COVID-19 spread, but numbers are headed in the right direction and praised the mask order.

Since the pandemic began, more than 112,000 Alabamians have tested positive for COVID-19 and nearly 2,000 people have died, according to numbers from the Alabama Department of Public Health.

Republished with the permission of the Associated Press.