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Hospitals support extending state mask order

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Hospitals are urging Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey to extend an order requiring face coverings in public — a directive currently set to expire at the end of this month — as health officials credit the measure for a drop in the state’s COVID-19  cases.

“We absolutely support extending the mask order,” said Dr. Don Williamson, the former state health officer who now heads the Alabama Hospital Association.

Amy Minor, chief clinical officer at Troy Regional Medical Center, echoed the sentiment. “We absolutely support that,” she said on Wednesday. “We firmly believe that masks make a difference.”

The governor’s office did not say when she would announce a decision. The Republican governor has faced a mix of praise from health officials and criticism from some conservatives for the decision to issue the statewide mask order unlike some Southern governors.  “Governor Ivey is encouraged by what we are seeing,” Ivey spokeswoman Gina Maiola said. “Our daily percent positive continues to improve, and our hospitalization levels have lowered. She wants to see this virus in our rearview mirrors sooner, rather than later. As college classes resume on campus and while Alabama continues working to get K-12 students back in the classroom, Governor Ivey reminds Alabamians that now is not the time to let down our guard.”

Minor said while it’s “hard when it’s hot and humid to be compliant with the masking, it’s important.”

Williamson likened the state’s COVID-19 situation to an improving patient. That doesn’t mean it is time to stop, or change, the treatment, he said.

“Now is not the time to do away with the mask order because the disease will recur,” Williamson said.

State Health Officer Scott Harris said that with increased mask usage, the state has seen a corresponding drop in hospitalizations and the percentage of tests that are positive.  “We in public health believe the mandate has been very effective in lowering transmission.”