For teachers and students preparing to enter the classroom next month, masks will now be required for anyone in second grade and above.
Governor Kay Ivey issued the new mandate Wednesday as an amendment to the statewide mask ordinance and Safer at Home order. The orders, originally set to expire Friday, have been extended through Aug. 31.
Wednesday’s announcement comes as COVID-19 continues to spread throughout Alabama, with state hospital officials recently reporting ICU capacity at its lowest point since the pandemic began.
State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said overall case numbers are not encouraging right now, but face masks are one of the most effective tools to reduce viral transmission.
“If we want our schools to minimize the number of cases they have, and minimize outbreaks and the risk of closing again, we really need people to cooperate with continuing to wear face coverings,” Harris said. “It’s really more important now than ever.”
Many schools recently have announced plans to offer both in-person and remote learning options, with some districts opting for virtual-only instruction during the first nine weeks.
During Wednesday’s press conference, Ivey encouraged schools to return to in-person instruction as soon as possible depending on COVID transmission in their communities.
“While I respect those districts that have elected to go to virtual classrooms,” Ivey said, “I feel with all my heart that a slide (in educational progress) will come by keeping our kids at home.”
The amended order requires face masks be worn in educational institutions, from K-12 through universities, “at all times when in regular interaction within six feet of a person from a different household.”
Those are the same rules that apply to anyone who is in public and interacting within six feet of people from another household. There are several exceptions, including for anyone with a medical condition or disability that prevents them from wearing a facial covering.