Alabama mask mandate extended; visitors to be allowed in hospitals, nursing homes

Alabama mask mandate extended; visitors to be allowed in hospitals, nursing homes
Gov. Kay Ivey gives an update on COVID-19 on Sept. 30. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Alabama’s “Safer at Home” health order has been extended until Nov. 8, Gov. Kay Ivey announced Wednesday morning.

The statewide rule requiring masks to be worn in public, which took effect in mid-July, will remain in effect. Ivey said the Nov. 3 election was one factor she considered when making the decision to extend the mask mandate.

Under the updated order, hospitals and nursing homes in Alabama must allow patients and residents to have one caregiver or visitor at a time unless there is a “compelling reason not to,” Ivey said.

However, the Alabama Hospital Association says each hospital will determine visitation policies.

Danne Howard, hospital association executive vice president, released this statement:

“Like everyone else, we are having conversations and hospitals are working to determine how this can be safely implemented. Because of many factors, to include varying rates of COVID-19 in communities and hospitalization rates in different areas of the state, visitation policies will be determined by each hospital in consultation with their medical staff, and strictly adhering to CDC recommendations and CMS guidelines for Phase II. The goal for everyone remains the same in providing safe and quality care while seeking to protect all patients, potential visitors and hospital staff from risk of the virus being spread.”

State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris also spoke Wednesday morning. He said the percentage of positive tests in Alabama is the lowest it has ever been and has been trending down since July.

September has seen lower average numbers of COVID-19 deaths than the previous months. Hospitalizations are also down and at a manageable level, he said.

He pointed to the mask mandate as the main reason the state is seeing improvements.

As of Wednesday, there were a total of 154,701 COVID-19 cases in the state and 2,540 deaths.

[Alabama Department of Public Health Coronavirus Dashboard]

Harris also said the state is working on a plan to distribute and store the COVID-19 vaccine once it’s sent to the state.

“At first, it will certainly be a limited resource, they’ll have to be some allocation based on priority. And obviously we want to make sure we’re protecting those who are highest risk for serious illness or highest risk for exposure, like healthcare workers for example," Harris said. "And so we will put that together, and we will do that in a very open and public way. We want it to be fair and equitable.”

On Wednesday, the governor’s office released these maps from the White House Coronavirus Task Force to show the progress of the COVID-19 in Alabama from April to September:

April
April (Source: White House Coronavirus Task Force)
May
May (Source: White House Coronavirus Task Force)
June
June (Source: White House Coronavirus Task Force)
July
July (Source: White House Coronavirus Task Force)
August
August (Source: White House Coronavirus Task Force)
September
September (Source: White House Coronavirus Task Force)

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