Face covering order currently set to expire Friday; Will it be extended?

State health leaders encouraged by numbers

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - There is just one week left in Governor Kay Ivey’s mandatory face covering order. Alabama health leaders are encouraged by some of the latest numbers, but they say it’s too early to say the face masks are making a difference.

Last week saw big increases in the number of confirmed COVID-19 positive cases and hospitalizations. Over the weekend, some of the numbers - especially confirmed COVID cases - slowed down.

Health officials in the state and in Jefferson County don’t think those face coverings are going away anytime soon.

If you look at the latest statewide county map, it shows more orange where it’s still a high risk of infection, but the number of red counties has dropped over the last week or so for the very high risks of infection.

“Leveling off is a good thing versus increasing, but we have to be cautious looking at trends over the next several days and weeks,” said Dr. Karen Landers with the Alabama Public Health Department.

Another key area is hospitalizations. Dr. Landers said across Alabama it appears to be leveling off, but UAB hit another record high with 116 cases Monday. The number remains troubling for the Jefferson County Health Department.

“The truth is our hospitals are still experiencing a high volume of patients. We don’t want to see that going in the wrong direction,” Dr. Wesley Willeford said.

The mandatory face mask order could be helping slow down some of the numbers and that order is set to expire later this week.

Health leaders say it’s too soon to say if the order is making a sustained impact and people should not consider giving them up anytime soon.

“It’s going to be a long time before we can throw a victory party. We can celebrate the citizens of Alabama are looking at these guidelines and are adhering to the face covering order,” Landers said.

Both Landers and Willeford welcomed news Monday that the ABC Board ordered alcohol sales to stop at 11 p.m. Enforcement will start this Saturday night.

Governor Ivey’s face coverings order will expire this Friday unless the governor extends the order between now and then.

Health leaders have warned people in Alabama they should be ready to wear face coverings out in public for the rest of the year.

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