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Alabama extends mask mandate 1 month, bucking other GOP-led states
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) said Thursday she will extend her state's mask mandate for another month, a contrast with decisions from governors in Texas and Mississippi to lift orders.
Ivey noted that coronavirus cases and hospitalizations have fallen but said the time is not yet right to lift the mask order.
"Even with this positive news, Dr. Harris & I believe more Alabamians need to get their 1st shot before we take a step some other states have taken to remove the mask order altogether & lift all restrictions," she wrote on Twitter, referring to state health officer Scott Harris. "Folks, we're not there yet, but we're getting close."
The move sets up a split between Southern Republican governors on mask mandates and could be an indication more GOP governors will not follow Texas and Mississippi's leads right away.
Alabama's mask order will remain until April 9, after which Ivey said it would not be extended. She notably defended the effectiveness of the order.
"The bottom line is we have kept the mask mandate in place for more than a generous period of time because it has helped," she wrote. "And as a result of the people of our state doing their part, we have seen dramatic results & real progress being made."
While the mask mandate will stay for now, Ivey said that given the improving situation she would ease some orders, including restrictions on the size of a group at each restaurant table.
The country is currently in a pivotal period, with vaccinations ramping up amid declines in cases and hospitalizations since January. But experts are warning that there is still a month or two to go until vaccinations are widespread enough to enable significant lifting of restrictions, and are urging limitations to remain in place for the final stretch to avoid a new spike.
President Biden also waded into the debate on Wednesday, calling the moves from Texas and Mississippi "Neanderthal thinking," and urging restrictions to remain.
Another GOP governor, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, defended mask mandates on Thursday as well, telling CNN that more progress needed to be made on vaccinations first, and that masks have "saved a lot, a lot of lives." The state also had early success in quickly vaccinating its nursing home residents.
Govs. Greg Abbott in Texas and Tate Reeves in Mississippi are not backing down, though.
"Mississippians don't need handlers," Reeves tweeted Wednesday. "As numbers drop, they can assess their choices and listen to experts. I guess I just think we should trust Americans, not insult them."