While Texas and Mississippi are lifting their mask mandates, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) announced on Thursday she is extending her state's mask order for another month.
On Wednesday, President Biden slammed Ivey's fellow Republican governors, Texas' Greg Abbott and Mississippi's Tate Reeves, for ending mask requirements and fully reopening businesses, saying they were showing "Neanderthal thinking." He called on leaders to listen to public health experts, and Ivey said that's what she's doing, extending the mask order that was set to expire on Friday.
"We need to get past Easter and hopefully allow more Alabamians to get their first shot before we take a step some other states have taken to remove the mask order altogether and lift other restrictions," Ivey said. "Folks, we are not there yet, but goodness knows we're getting closer."
The mask order will now expire on April 9, and Ivey said after that, people will have to be responsible for wearing them without a mandate. Face coverings, Ivey said, are "one of our greatest tools" in preventing the spread of coronavirus, and when the order is lifted she will "continue to wear my mask when I'm around others and strongly urge my fellow citizens to use common sense and do the same."
Public health experts have warned of the dangers associated with reopening states too soon, before more people are vaccinated and as highly-transmissible variants spread, saying it could erase gains made against the virus. Alabama is home to 4.9 million people, with just 13 percent of the population having received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Don Williamson, head of the Alabama Hospital Association, told The Associated Press that if 1.75 million doses are delivered by early April, that would be "a terrific place to be."