The mask mandate in Alabama has been extended to April 9 by Governor Kay Ivey, reassuring some UAB students and faculty who believe facial coverings should be mandatory everywhere and not just on campus.
“We do feel that masks contribute to the mitigation standard, to the reduction of COVID-19,” said Karen Landers, the assistant director at the Alabama Department of Public Health. Landers said this in late 2020, at the previous extension of the mask mandate.
Governor Kay Ivey made the decision Thursday, and some UAB students and faculty said they support it. The governor delayed the end of the order until the beginning of April.
“All along, Governor Ivey has made clear that she prefers personal responsibility to government mandates. We are optimistic that our state is heading in the right direction, and we still have some work to be done,” said Gina Maiola, a spokesperson for Ivey, according to AL.com.
On Tuesday afternoon, UAB hosted a press conference with healthcare officials from the school’s hospital and a Jefferson County Health Officer. In this meeting, these officials addressed the importance of wearing masks as well as life moving forward after the pandemic.
Senior Vice President of Medicine at UAB, Selwyn Vickers, said Alabama has done exceptionally well considering its resources at the time the pandemic began.
“I think there’s a lot to be proud of both our state and UAB and how we’ve tried to respond but how we actually have responded,” said Vickers, who is also Dean of the UAB School of Medicine.
Jeanne Marrazzo, UAB’s Director for the Division of Infectious Diseases said the Jefferson County community has complied with the demands of the health officers to protect against COVID-19. She said masks helped achieve that success.
“I’m also really grateful to everybody in the community who complied and tried really hard to protect us from this infection,” Marrazzo said. “Mask wearing, social distancing, and hygiene got us really far every single time we tried to combat this infection.”
Marazzo said COVID-19 will remain a threat until further notice.
“And I think in the coming year, what we’re gonna see is that we cannot let our guard down, we have to remain vigilant,” said Marrazzo.
Even with the vaccine being massively distributed, Mark Wilson, Jefferson County Health Officer, said we’re still not in the clear from spreading the virus to others.
“I would hate to see more casualties when we know we’re about to win this war,” Wilson said.
Some UAB students, like Alexandra da Silva, a sophomore majoring in business, said they would keep wearing masks after receiving the vaccine.
“I think it’s essential because of our health. We just need to wear it for a couple months, so what’s the problem?” da Silva said.
Kaitilin King, a sophomore majoring in nursing, said it is helpful for people to keep wearing masks.
“I think it’s keeping people safe and even though the numbers are going down,” King said, “it is helping by wearing the mask.”
After the mandate ends on April 10, UAB officials, like Dean Vickers, said masks are important because they are proven to work in protecting everyone.
“We’re running down the field, we’re on the 10 yard-line,” Vickers said, “we don’t want to spike the ball before we get in the endzone.”