Alabama Governor Kay Ivey on Thursday extended her statewide mask order until April 9, but said the order would not be implemented afterward. Ivey said the order will give residents more time to get vaccinated against and allow businesses to implement their own face mask policies.
"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 told reporters Thursday. "Folks, we are not there yet, but goodness knows we're getting closer."
Ivey said wearing a mask is "one of the greatest tools" in fighting the spread of coronavirus. "Even when we lift the mask order, I will continue to wear my mask while I'm around others and strongly urge my fellow citizens to use common sense and do the same thing," she said.
The mask mandate is part of the governor's new "safer at home" order, which increases the number of caregivers or visitors in nursing homes and hospitals and removes party-size limits at restaurants and bars.
Nearly 650,000 Alabama residents have received at least one of the two COVID-19 vaccines available, according to state data. More than 352,000 residents have been fully vaccinated.
The governor's announcement comes after Texas and Mississippimask requirements and eased COVID-19 restrictions. President Biden of those states, calling the decisions "Neanderthal thinking."
"I think it's a big mistake," the president told reporters. "Look, I hope everybody's realized by now, these masks make a difference."
Earlier this week, Mr. Biden said the country will have enoughto cover all Americans by the end of May. However, it will take longer than that to get those shots into arms.
Kathryn Watson contributed to this report.