Hospitals support extension of Alabama mask order

Hospitals support extension of Alabama mask order

By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Hospitals are urging Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey to extend an order requiring face coverings in public — a directive currently set to expire at the end of this month — as health officials credit the measure for a drop in the state’s COVID-19 cases.

“We absolutely support extending the mask order,” said Dr. Don Williamson, the former state health officer who now heads the Alabama Hospital Association.

The governor’s office did not say when she would announce a decision. 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.

“Governor Ivey is encouraged by what we are seeing,” Ivey spokeswoman Gina Maiola said. “Our daily percent positive continues to improve, and our hospitalization levels have lowered. She wants to see this virus in our rearview mirrors sooner, rather than later. As college classes resume on campus and while Alabama continues working to get K-12 students back in the classroom, Governor Ivey reminds Alabamians that now is not the time to let down our guard.”

Williamson likened the state’s COVID-19 situation to an improving patient. That doesn’t mean it is time to stop, or change, the treatment, he said.

“Now is not the time to do away with the mask order because the disease will recur,” Williamson said.

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.

State health officials have said the state’s COVID-19 numbers are improving, but have also acknowledged some recent difficulty in getting cases reported.

After some delays in reporting, the Alabama Department of Public Health showed Wednesday that the state had 1.172 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing the seven-day average for new cases to 763. A total of 1,077 people in the state are hospitalized due to COVID-19, down from the peak of 1,613 on Aug. 6.