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Pike County adds four new cases

PELHAM, Ala. (AP) — A new health rule mandating face masks in public in Alabama was off to an uneven start Friday, with many people covering up to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, others refusing and authorities taking a generally hands-off approach to enforcement.

The mandate began as Alabama added 1,953 new cases overnight Thursday, bringing the state total to 62,111. Total deaths for the state are 1,232. Pike County added four cases to bring the total to 523 with six deaths.

The virus that causes COVID-19 is raging through the state, with more than 1,500 cases reported each day over the last week and hospital intensive care units more than 85% full. Officials described the mask requirement as an attempt to avoid another shutdown of the economy.

At a strip mall in heavily Republican Shelby County south of Birmingham, most people coming and going from shops wore cloth face masks. A customer at a UPS store in Pelham apologized out loud for forgetting hers; everyone else inside wore a mask or a plastic face shield.

A few miles away at a Home Depot store, most customers and employees wore masks, yet a few refused offers of a free mask as they entered the retailer, a worker said.

“It’s better than it was but it’s not 100%,” said the employee, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly. “We’re getting some resistance.”

The rule requires a mask for anyone older than 6 who’s in public and within 6 feet (2 meters) of someone who’s not a relative. Businesses are not required to prohibit people from entering if they lack masks, but they are allowed to refuse admittance.

Gov. Kay Ivey announced the mask rule, which took effect Thursday afternoon, as cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, increased dramatically this week. UnderstandingtheOutbreak.