STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Health expert: Too soon to ease Alabama mask mandate

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey during a mask mandate briefing on Jan. 21, 2021.

A top health expert says it's too early for Alabama to end its order requiring face masks to protect against the virus that causes COVID-19.

Posted: Mar 3, 2021 4:21 PM
Updated: Mar 4, 2021 10:57 AM

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Alabama “isn't out of the woods yet” with COVID-19 and it's too early for Gov. Kay Ivey to lift a mask order that has been in place since July, a top health expert said Wednesday as state pandemic deaths topped 10,000.

Dr. Sarah Nafziger, vice president of clinic support services at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, told a news briefing she favors retaining the requirement, which is set to expire Friday afternoon without an extension.

Other Republican-led states including Texas and neighboring Mississippi are easing health restrictions as vaccination numbers rise and illnesses linked to the new coronavirus decline, and Ivey is facing pressure to eliminate the mask order. On social media, some are sharing the phone number to the governor's office and asking callers to voice opposition to the rule.

Hospitalizations are at the lowest point than anytime since June, and Nafziger said a reduction in testing indicates fewer people are having symptoms that prompt them to seek a test. But easing restrictions before more people are vaccinated could reverse the overall trend of improvement since mask wearing reduces illness and infection, Nafzier said.

“Is it time to do away with the mask mandate in Alabama? No," she said, adding: “We have a lot of vulnerable people in our population, and the last thing we want is for them to get sick or die.”

While the coronavirus causes only mild to moderate symptoms for most people, it is particularly dangerous for the the elderly and people with other, serious health problems.

The Alabama Hospital Association has asked Ivey to extend the mask rule, which requires facial coverings in indoor public places and outside when social distancing can't be maintained, but the governor's office has not said what she will do.

Ivey has said she prefers “personal responsibility” to government mandates and the state is headed in the right direction, yet "we still have some work to be done,” spokeswoman Gina Maiola said Monday.

The state's death toll from COVID-19 hit 10,029 on Wednesday, state statistics showed, and more than 497,000 people have tested positive. Of more than 1.4 million vaccine doses delivered to providers in the state, almost 973,000 shots have been administered to patients.

With the state lagging behind others in delivering immunizations, Nafziger said UAB — one of the top shot providers in the state — isn't “sitting on doses.” Shipments typically arrive with little notice and in varying amounts, she said, so most scheduling has been “very last minute.” Patients don't like the system, she said, “and we hate it.”

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 313942

Reported Deaths: 7240
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21580258
Hinds20330415
Harrison17879309
Rankin13594278
Jackson13429246
Madison10088217
Lee9970174
Jones8370163
Forrest7670152
Lauderdale7188241
Lowndes6387146
Lamar622486
Lafayette6184118
Washington5332133
Bolivar4801132
Oktibbeha462198
Panola4582106
Pearl River4506146
Marshall4435103
Warren4386121
Pontotoc420172
Monroe4107133
Union410076
Neshoba4030176
Lincoln3962110
Hancock378486
Leflore3493125
Sunflower335990
Tate333384
Pike3316105
Scott315773
Alcorn312768
Yazoo311469
Itawamba299777
Copiah296865
Coahoma295179
Simpson294988
Tippah288168
Prentiss279760
Adams278782
Marion269080
Leake267473
Wayne262641
Grenada261386
Covington258281
George247848
Newton246261
Winston227081
Tishomingo226667
Jasper221048
Attala214273
Chickasaw207757
Holmes188873
Clay185254
Stone182433
Tallahatchie178541
Clarke177980
Calhoun170532
Yalobusha164238
Smith162334
Walthall133945
Greene130533
Lawrence128524
Montgomery126742
Noxubee126734
Perry126338
Amite123042
Carroll121828
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis107033
Tunica105226
Claiborne102430
Benton99525
Humphreys96533
Kemper95728
Franklin83623
Quitman80716
Choctaw76318
Wilkinson67230
Jefferson65528
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 531404

Reported Deaths: 10985
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson765501522
Mobile41036805
Madison34789503
Tuscaloosa25788453
Montgomery24340589
Shelby23449249
Baldwin21154308
Lee15882171
Calhoun14511314
Morgan14306279
Etowah13843353
Marshall12232223
Houston10570281
Elmore10068205
Limestone9974151
Cullman9676194
St. Clair9661243
Lauderdale9427241
DeKalb8831186
Talladega8227176
Walker7241277
Autauga6926108
Jackson6814112
Blount6678137
Colbert6306134
Coffee5519119
Dale4838111
Russell441538
Chilton4296112
Franklin426082
Covington4129118
Tallapoosa4023152
Escambia393677
Chambers3573123
Dallas3551152
Clarke351161
Marion3122101
Pike310977
Lawrence300398
Winston274473
Bibb260964
Geneva250477
Marengo249564
Pickens234461
Barbour231057
Hale223077
Butler216069
Fayette212562
Henry188844
Cherokee185245
Randolph180542
Monroe177540
Washington167339
Macon159650
Clay156756
Crenshaw152557
Cleburne148941
Lamar142535
Lowndes138853
Wilcox127130
Bullock122841
Conecuh110529
Perry107726
Coosa107628
Sumter104732
Greene92534
Choctaw60724
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Partly Cloudy
52° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 52°
Columbus
Partly Cloudy
52° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 52°
Oxford
Cloudy
50° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 50°
Starkville
Partly Cloudy
50° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 50°
The sunshine becomes even more dominant as we roll into late-week. Temperatures will gradually climb as a result. But at night, low humidity and very little cloud coverage will make for some cool mornings.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather