Masks now required in Alabama to slow spread of COVID-19, governor announces

Masks now required in Alabama to slow spread of COVID-19, governor announces

Masks are now required statewide in Alabama to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced the new state public health order in a news conference today (July 15).

The order calls for individuals to wear a mask in public and/or when they come in close contact with people from another household in indoor public spaces, taking public transportation and in outdoor public spaces where 10 or more people are gathered.

Young children and those with certain medical conditions or disabilities are exempted from the order, as are situations of “practical necessity,” including while drinking, eating or undergoing medical or dental procedures. An additional category carves out narrow exceptions for protected activities like voting and religious worship — but even then, wearing a mask is strongly encouraged, the order states.

COVID-19 cases trending up

“This is going to be a difficult order to enforce,” Ivey said. “I always prefer personal responsibility over government mandate, and yet I also know with all my heart that the numbers and the data from the past few weeks are trending in the wrong direction.”

Ivey said overnight totals reported July 15 show 2,141 new COVID-19 cases in Alabama, bringing the state’s total to more than 58,000 confirmed cases.

“Nine of the first 13 days in July saw daily increases of more than 1,000 cases,” she said. “We’re almost to the point where our hospital ICUs are overwhelmed. Earlier this week, 87% of ICU beds statewide were occupied.”

“The numbers just do not lie,” Ivey emphasized, adding that she has the support of the state’s medical community and many in the state’s business community for the statewide mask order.

Scott Harris, Alabama’s state health officer, noted Alabama hospitals have recorded a new high in hospital inpatient numbers. More than 2,000 hospital patients in the state have COVID-19 and many hospitals have limited or no ICU capacity left.

“Alabama is not headed in the right direction,” Harris said. “We don’t really have a lot of options at this time.”

Harris said the state’s economy doesn’t have to be shut down if people cooperate with state health orders.

“We do have the ability to keep the person-to-person spread from occurring,” he said. “Face coverings or masks will prevent disease transmission.”

People will be upset, Harris added, but “this is a health order that protects the people around you.”

Mask mandate begins July 16

The mask mandate begins July 16 at 5 p.m. and extends through July 31. Alabama’s current Safer-at-Home public health order is set to expire July 31.

No other changes were made to the Safer-at-Home order, Ivey said. At this time, she said she has no plans to limit gathering capacity or events.

“I’m trusting the people of Alabama to do the right thing and wear a mask,” Ivey said. “With everyone’s cooperation, we can slow down the spread of this virus.

To read more about masks as ministry in the time of COVID-19, click here.

More information on the mask order:

  1. When do I have to wear a mask?

You have to wear a mask when you are in public and in close contact with other people. Specifically, the order says to wear a mask when you are within six feet of a person from another household in any of the following places: (a) an indoor space open to the public; (b) a vehicle operated by a transportation service; and (c) an outdoor public space where ten or more people are gathered.

  1. Do young children have to wear a mask? What about people who are exercising? In other words, are there any exceptions to the mask-wearing requirement?

There are five categories of exceptions. The largest category, exceptions for “practical necessity,” covers people or situations where mask use is incompatible with the realities of life—for example, children six or younger, people with certain medical conditions or disabilities, eating and drinking, medical and dental procedures, and so on. There are also categories of exceptions for exercise, for communicating with an audience, and for certain essential job functions. An additional category carves out narrow exceptions for protected activities like voting and religious worship— but even then, wearing a mask is strongly encouraged.

  1. What kind of face mask is required?

The requirement allows all kinds of masks to be used — whether store-bought, homemade or improvised from household items like scarves, bandanas, or t-shirts. The key is for the mask to cover your nostrils and mouth. For instructions on how to make your own mask, see the CDC’s “How to Make Cloth Face Coverings,” available at

  1. I live in a city or county that already has a local mask order. Am I supposed to follow my local order or this new statewide order?

Follow this new statewide order. While this order is in effect, it will replace all local mask rules to provide a uniform, statewide rule.

  1. I am a business owner. What does this order mean for my business?

The order requires businesses to take reasonable steps, where practicable, to encourage mask use by employees and customers. One example of a reasonable step might be to post signs encouraging customers and patrons to wear a mask. Although a business is not required to deny entry to people who are mask-less, they always retain the right to do so — and doing so would certainly be a reasonable step to encourage mask use.

  1. How long will the new mask requirement be in effect?

The new mask requirement goes into effect Thursday, July 16, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. It is currently set to expire on July 31, 2020. (Source of FAQs: