A statewide mask mandate ordered by Gov. Kay Ivey went into effect last week as COVID-19 cases continued to rise across the state and in Lawrence County.
Ivey said the amendment to the state’s Safer at Home order would remain in effect until it expires on July 31 unless the health order is extended.
State Health Officer Scott Harris said Alabama set a new record high in daily cases last Tuesday when the Alabama Department of Public Health reported 2,141 new cases of the coronavirus.
A week later, Lawrence County also set a record when it reported a total of 20 new cases by Tuesday, which surpassed the county’s previous high of 11 new cases reported in a single day.
As of Monday, Lawrence County had 38 active COVID-19 cases, according to Lawrence County Coroner Scott Norwood, who also serves as the county’s 911 director. His data reflected 203 total cases for Lawrence County as of Monday but showed that 165 of those cases had reached estimated quarantine expirations as of Sunday, July 19.
ADPH typically updates data recorded online at https://alpublichealth.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/6d2771faa9da4a2786a509d82c8cf0f7 daily Monday through Friday, while Norwood said his department receives its data once every other day. When ADPH data was released Tuesday morning, it showed 205 total cases for Lawrence County, reflecting 20 new cases since Monday.
Though Ivey said she believed the new mask requirement would be hard to enforce, she said the new ordinance was a “first step” in reversing statewide health orders if the spread of the virus does not significantly and consistently decrease.
“I always prefer personal responsibility over a government mandate, and yet I also know with all my heart that the numbers and data over the past few weeks are definitely trending in the wrong direction,” she said. “We are calling on everyone—everyone in the state—to practice personal responsibility and wear a mask.”
Ivey said there were no other changes to the current Safer at Home order and announced no further restrictions on public gatherings as of Wednesday.
The new order requires masks or facial coverings to be worn in public spaces or in outdoor spaces where ten or more people are gathered. Masks and coverings are to cover the wearer’s mouth and nostrils at all times while the person is within six feet of other people not of the same household.
The order was announced with several exceptions. Masks are not required for children six years old and younger, or for people who have medical condition or disability that prevents them from wearing a mask.
Masks are not required while obtaining medical services such as dental procedures, which require the removal of a mask, or for people who need to remove their masks to confirm their identities, such as for security or screening.
Anyone engaged in exercise at a gym or athletic facility is exempt from the mandate as long as he or she maintains a six-foot distance from others not of the same household.
Ivey said violations of the mask ordinance could result in a maximum fine of $500 and jail time.
“We’re certainly not asking our sheriffs and police officers to go out looking for people who are not wearing a mask and arrest them, but we are asking everyone to do a better job practicing social distancing, personal hygiene and wearing face masks,” she said.
As of Tuesday, ADPH reported 69,075 cases had been confirmed for the state with 1,268 confirmed COVID-19 deaths. At that time, ADPH also reported a total of 205 cases had been confirmed in Lawrence County since testing began.
ADPH data showed 1,563 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 on Tuesday. ADPH’s data also showed 29,736 presumed recoveries statewide.
Lawrence Medical Center CEO Dean Griffin said the hospital had no COVID-19 hospitalizations at the Lawrence County hospital as of Tuesday. He had reported two positive cases at the hospital in early June, but one of those patients had been transferred to another hospital and the other—diagnosed at a separate time—was released to quarantine at home.
“We’re still seeing increased testing through our Urgent Care Clinic (in Moulton),” Griffin added. “We haven’t seen any of those admitted into the hospital, so we think most of those are quarantining at home and getting through it.”
He said the hospital partnered with the Lawrence County Chapter of the NAACP and Courtland Missionary Baptist Church to hold a temporary testing site in Courtland on Saturday after the community expressed a need for more testing in the area.
Griffin said the hospital is still awaiting results for the 121 people tested during the event last weekend. He said he expected the tests to be returned sometime midweek.