Gov. Kay Ivey has extended the statewide mask mandate until the end of August.
Ivey first put the mask mandate into place on July 15, as cases of COVID-19 continued to rise across the state of Alabama.
She announced the extension during a press conference on Wednesday with Scott Harris, Alabama's state health officer.
"Y'all these decisions are not easy, and they are not fun," Ivey said. "But one thing is for sure: tough decisions are a lot easier to make when you're on the sidelines than when you're actually in the arena."
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Ivey also said it is imperative that kids return to school in the fall. In combination with this, she announced that all students between second grade and college will have to wear masks whenever it is practical.
"We don't have the luxury of not getting our young people back in school," Ivey said.
Many school districts across Alabama have already chosen to delay the return of face-to-face instruction until September and instead use remote learning like they did last spring.
"While I respect those districts that have elected to go to virtual classrooms, I feel with all my heart that a slide will come by keeping our kids at home," Ivey said.
Ivey issued a challenge to every school and school district in the state to phase back into face-to-face instruction if at all possible.
"Nothing is set in concrete," she said. "If the COVID-19 situation in your community or counties permits, you should be looking into in-person classroom participation if at all possible."
According to Harris, Alabama has 81,687 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 22,000 of which have been confirmed in the last two weeks.
"I think there is question about whether or not we are flattening out a little bit over the last three to four days," Harris said. "I would say, overall, our numbers are not yet particularly encouraging."
Harris said the state is continuing to see cases being confirmed as a result of the travel and celebrations related to the July 4 weekend.
Harris also said that hospitals and medical centers across the state are continuing to set record highs for the number of COVID-19 cases being treated.
"A couple of days ago they were right at 1,600 inpatients," he said. "These numbers are as high as we have ever seen, and it's very consistent with what we saw around Memorial Day."
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