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Gov. Ivey issues state mask order

Published: Jul. 15, 2020 at 10:28 AM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Governor Kay Ivey announced Wednesday Alabama is now the next state to have a mask order.

The governor amended the Safer at Home order to include “Masks required in public when interacting within 6 feet with people of another household, subject to certain exceptions.”

The penalty for violating the order can result in a $500 fine and/or jail time, Ivey said. But she added the goal is not for law enforcement to search for violators, rather it’s to get people to use masks.

The governor said she doesn’t want to close things down again unless absolutely necessary and that she wants to preserve the livelihood of small business owners and workers.

The governor’s office provided answers to a series of frequently asked questions. Those include:

When do I have to wear a mask?

You have to wear a mask when you are in public and in close contact with other people. Specifically, the order says to wear a mask when you are within six feet of a person from another household in any of the following places: (a) an indoor space open to the public; (b) a vehicle operated by a transportation service; and (c) an outdoor public space where ten or more people are gathered.

How long will the new mask requirement be in effect?

The new mask requirement goes into effect Thursday, July 16, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. It is currently set to expire on July 31, 2020.

Do young children have to wear a mask? What about people who are exercising? In other words, are there any exceptions to the mask-wearing requirement?

There are five categories of exceptions. The largest category, exceptions for “practical necessity,” covers people or situations where mask use is incompatible with the realities of life—for example, children six or younger, people with certain medical conditions or disabilities, eating and drinking, medical and dental procedures, and so on. There are also categories of exceptions for exercise, for communicating with an audience, and for certain essential job functions. An additional category carves out narrow exceptions for protected activities like voting and religious worship— but even then, wearing a mask is strongly encouraged.

What does this order mean for my business?

The order requires businesses to take reasonable steps, where practicable, to encourage mask use by employees and customers. One example of a reasonable step might be to post signs encouraging customers and patrons to wear a mask. Although a business is not required to deny entry to people who are mask-less, they always retain the right to do so—and doing so would certainly be a reasonable step to encourage mask use.

Below see sign graphics for businesses released by the Governor’s office as well:

Gov. Kay Ivey held a news conference with State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris to give an update on COVID-19 in Alabama.

Ivey had long resisted calls for such an order saying there was no way to enforce it. Instead, she publicly called for people to voluntarily wear the masks and left it up to local governments to issue such orders.

Some municipalities have since adopted the requirement including Montgomery, Birmingham, Mobile, Tuscaloosa, Selma and others.

“Each area is unique and is working with their own set of data specific to their town or city, which is why the governor supports the decisions of local governments or businesses to require masks to be worn,” the governor’s office said in an email a week ago.

On June 30 Ivey extended her Safer at Home order through July.

The state’s current Safer at Home order isn’t set to expire until July 31. The current order keeps some restrictions on retailers and businesses. For instance, retailers are required to limit their capacity to 50 percent and have customers seated six feet apart.

On Tuesday, the governor’s office confirmed Dr. Deborah Birx, a key member of the Trump Administration’s Coronavirus Task Force, would travel to Alabama to meet with Ivey in the coming days. A specific date and time when the meeting, closed to the public and press, would take place was not released.

As of Wednesday morning, Alabama has 56,441 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 1,136 deaths. There have been 18,092 positive tests in the last 14 days with 146,463 tests reported.

As COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the state, hospital officials also say they are worried about being overwhelmed. On Monday, Dr. Karen Landers with the Alabama Department of Health said state data showed about 30 percent of hospitalized COVID-19 patients might need ICU care with between 12 and 13 percent possibly needing a ventilator.

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