Alabama’s Republican governor called for “common sense” while announcing an extension of her state’s mask mandate amid growing pressures from within the GOP to disregard public health safety measures for the coronavirus.
Governor Kay Ivey said on Thursday that masks were “one of our greatest tools” in curbing the spread of Covid infections as states work to administer new vaccines approved for use by the FDA.
“We need to get past Easter and hopefully allow more Alabamians to get their first shot before we take a step some other states have taken to remove the mask order altogether and lift other restrictions,” the governor said during a press conference. “Folks, we are not there yet, but goodness knows we’re getting closer.”
She spoke as her Republican counterparts in states like Texas announced an easing of restrictions, with Governor Greg Abbott urging his state to open up to 100 per cent capacity at bars and restaurants.
An internal dispute has been brewing within the GOP over whether or not to ease Covid restrictions, like mask wearing, which became politicised under former President Trump, who often refused to wear a mask and mocked then-candidate Joe Biden for wearing one while traveling the country. Mr Trump was later infected with Covid-19.
As a growing patch of Republican governors in southern states announced a lifting of restrictions, Ms Ivey said Alabama would continue to abide by the recommendations of public health experts, at least until April.
Under the extension this week, Alabama will continue to follow a mask order recommendation through 9 April after it was previously scheduled to expire on Friday. Announcing the extension of the measure, Governor Ivey suggested this would be the final time she imposed such recommendations.
She said that she would continue following recommendations, and urged others to do the same.
“Even when we lift the mask order, I will continue to wear my mask while I’m around others and strongly urge my fellow citizens to use common sense and do the same,” the governor said on Thursday.
States like Texas and Mississippi have broken from CDC recommendations in recent weeks, despite infection rates appearing to plateau at about the peak the nation experienced during the summer.
Experts said infections were appearing to level off despite an increase in vaccinations. It remains unclear whether new variants and other factors — like a lack of mask wearing and social distancing – are contributing to the plateauing effect.
Additional reporting by AP