Alabama’s Face Mask Mandate Extended; Visitors Now Allowed in Health Care Facilities
Gov. Kay Ivey and State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris held a news conference this morning to update the state on Alabama’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The news conference was carried live on Alabama News Network.
Ivey is extending the state’s mask mandate until 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 8. It had been due to expire on Friday.
Most other aspects of the state’s response will remain the same. However, starting Friday, hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care facilities will be allowed to admit one visitor or caregiver for each patient.
Here are details of Alabama’s response efforts:
Gov. Ivey says the mask mandate is being extended through Nov. 8 in part to have the order in place for the Nov. 3 general election. She says that will keep poll workers, poll watchers and voters safer at the polls.
She did note that Sec. of State John Merrill says that masks will not be required in order to vote. Still, she says she plans on wearing hers.
Ivey says she has heard from people who were hoping that Alabama would follow the lead of other states and remove the mask mandate. She says that she did not want to risk a spike, especially with the winter months and flu season coming soon. She asks that Alabamians be patient.
Overall, she says that Alabama has made real progress under the mask mandate. She says there has been no surge in cases after the Labor Day holiday. Ivey says the number of new cases and hospitalizations have both dropped since the mandate was issued on July 16.
Dr. Harris says there is no magic answer on how long Alabama will be under the mask mandate.
CHANGE IN HOSPITAL VISITOR POLICY:
For detailed information on hospital and nursing home visitation guidance, CLICK HERE.
The change in policy to allow one visitor or caregiver to assist a patient in a health care facility is subject to restrictions imposed because of a county’s COVID-19 positivity rate, the facility’s COVID-19 status, a patient’s or resident’s COVID-19 status, a caregiver’s or visitor’s symptoms or other factors.
The governor’s order says each facility shall post in a conspicuous location at each public entrance a statement saying something similar to this:
“By order of the Governor of Alabama and the State Health Officer, each patient or resident of this facility enjoys certain rights to have one caregiver or one visitor present at a time, subject to reasonable restrictions. If you have questions, you may ask to inspect the facility’s written policies concerning visitation.”
UPDATE ON CASE NUMBERS:
State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris says that Alabama has reached 150,000 cases since the start of the pandemic, with about 14,000 over the past 14 days. That averages to about 1,000 cases a day.
He says there are several encouraging signs. There was a lower average number of deaths in September. The total number of deaths is about 2,500 since the pandemic began.
He says around 17,000 people are currently in a hospital, which is about half the number of late July or early August.
The number of people testing positive is now 7.1%. Only six counties out of Alabama’s 67 counties are showing an increase in the number of cases.
RAPID TESTS & VACCINES:
Gov. Ivey says Alabama will be getting about one million rapid COVID-19 tests from the federal government. She says the state will be working with the Alabama Department of Public Health on a plan to provide them for vulnerable people and for K-12 schools.
Dr. Harris says the state will submit its vaccine plan to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services within the next two weeks. Those details will include how the state receives, stores and administers the vaccine and how to prioritize what will be a limited resource, at least at the beginning.
Harris says the vaccine will be free.
Harris says Alabama hospitals will be equipped and ready for the combination of COVID-19 and the flu. He says hospitals can handle surges based on their experiences with flu outbreaks. He says they know how to isolate patients, protect staff and use ventilators if they become needed.