Alabama governor Kay Ivey, a Republican, issued a statewide order for residents to wear face masks in public spaces.
The order, which will take effect on Thursday, follows a surge in coronavirus cases in the state, with a concomitant rise in hospitalizations in several areas including Montgomery, Madison, Jefferson, and Mobile counties. Residents will be required to wear masks in indoor areas and on public transportation when social distancing is not possible, as well as at outdoor gatherings of more than ten people.
“You shouldn’t have to be ordered to do what’s in your own best interest, and the best interest of those you love,” Ivey said at a press conference. “I always prefer a personal responsibility over a government mandate. Yet, I also know with all of my heart that the numbers and the data over the past few weeks are definitely trending in the wrong direction.”
Ivey announced that the state recorded 2,141 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday night. “Folks, the numbers just do not lie,” Ivey said.
Residents will face a $500 fine and possible jail time if they do not comply with the order, although Ivey said that the state hopes not to need to enforce the penalties.
The mask order came after Dr. Don Williams, a former state health officer who is currently president of the Alabama Hospital Association, said on Tuesday that the state had a “short window” before the current outbreak spread out of control.
“I believe we could set ourselves up for what could be a potential disaster in terms of new infections,” Williamson said in comments to the Montgomery Advertiser.
States including California and Texas have paused reopening plans due to new surges in coronavirus cases, and various states have enacted penalties for residents who violate face mask or quarantine procedures. In New York, local officials in Rockland County have threatened to issue subpoenas to compel residents to comply with contact tracing efforts.