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Alabama’s “safer apart” order begins 5 p.m. today
By Christa Jennings
With Gov. Kay Ivey having previously stated that the statewide mask mandate would expire at 5 p.m. today, she held a press conference Wednesday to further detail plans for Alabama.
During Wednesday’s press conference, Ivey announced that at 5 p.m. today, April 9, with the mask mandate no longer in effect, the state will then enter into the “safer apart” order. This new order takes the place of the “safer at home” order, which was first ordered in Alabama last April.
Nearly one year later, the state will finally proceed from that “safer at home” order to the “safer apart” order which is considered the “greenlight” in the traffic light scenario.
Ivey explained that the state still has a public health order, but that it is “greatly slimmed down,” which she credited to “everyone doing their part to practice social distancing, wearing a mask and voluntarily getting a vaccine.”
“I continue to encourage you to do all of these things and make smart decisions,” Ivey stated.
This is the governor’s twenty-sixth supplemental emergency proclamation, which moves the state into the third phase of the COVID-19 pandemic health orders.
As of 5 p.m. today, masks will no longer be mandated statewide, although individuals are still “strongly encouraged” to wear a mask or other facial covering when in public and in close contact with other individuals of different households.
The new order that goes into effect at 5 p.m. today extends until 5 p.m. Wednesday, May 5, “unless extended, rescinded or modified in writing before that time.”
Prior to 5 p.m. May 5, a determination will be made whether to extend or change the order.
While requirements are removed in this “safer apart” order, it still recommends and encourages people to wear masks, maintain a 6 foot distance from people of other households and frequently sanitize.
While there has been a significant decrease in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the state, Alabama’s state of emergency regarding COVID-19 remains in effect.
Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 is also still required to quarantine at home, with the Alabama Department of Public Health typically recommending a 14-day quarantine period.
With requirements being nixed from the new order, it now instead lists “recommendations for individuals” and states that all people, and especially those who are more vulnerable to the virus, are encouraged to “exercise personal responsibility” in slowing the spread of COVID-19.
Individuals are encouraged to exercise said personal responsibility by maintaining six feet of separation from people of different households; wearing a mask or other facial covering at all times when within six feet of a person from another household; staying home if sick; washing hands frequently with soap and water or hand sanitizer, especially after touching frequently used items or surfaces; refraining from touching one’s face; sneezing or coughing into a tissue or the inside of one’s elbow; and disinfecting frequently used items and surfaces as much as possible.
Per the order, “vulnerable persons” means individuals who are 65 years old or older or individuals with serious underlying health conditions, as well as those with compromised immune systems.
The new “safer apart” order does not change anything regarding hospitals and similar institutions, with the amended order from March 6 remaining in effect for those. This includes that each patient or resident of a healthcare facility has the right to two caregivers at hospitals or as many as two visitors at a time at nursing homes and long-term care facilities.
Regarding senior citizen centers, effective at 5 p.m. today the order states that “all programs at senior citizen centers shall follow guidelines issued by the Alabama Department of Senior Services. Senior citizen centers and their partners are urged to assure that their clients continue to receive needed meals via curbside pickup or delivery.”
Employers and business owners are also encouraged to protect their employees, customers, students, and others by encouraging the use of face masks, maintaining safe social distancing, regularly disinfecting used items or surfaces, and other such guidelines.
The full “safer apart” order is available at https://governor.alabama.gov/assets/2021/04/Safer-Apart-Order-Final-4.6.21.pdf.