Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced a statewide mask mandate on Wednesday as COVID-19 cases continued to rise.
Ivey said the amendment to the state’s “Safer at Home” order will go into effect at 5 p.m. on Thursday, and the new mask ordinance will remain in effect until the order expires on July 31.
State Health Officer Scott Harris said Alabama set a new record high in daily cases on Tuesday when the state reported 2,141 new cases of the coronavirus.
As of noon on Wednesday, the Alabama Department of Public Health reported 58,225 confirmed cases for the state with 1,183 confirmed COVID-19 deaths. At that time, ADPH also reported 159 cases for Lawrence County.
Though Ivey said she believed the 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 the mask to confirm his or her identity, 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.