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The end of Alabama mask mandate doesn’t mean “no masks at all”

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Alabama enters its first full week today without Governor Kay Ivey’s COVID-19 mask mandate. The new “safer apart” program suggests masks and social distancing, but doesn’t require it. It replaces the original “safer at home” plan. Birmingham and Montgomery are still requiring masks for now. That subject came up during a press conference with UAB Epidemiologist Dr. Rachael Lee. She says UAB hospital still has a mask mandate.

“Hospital follows CMS guidance for their mask mandates. So, even though we may not have a mask mandate in our state, we still require anybody that is coming to visit a loved one or coming for a clinic visit you will still need to continue wearing a mask even you enter our facility,” said Dr. Lee.

CMS is the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. It can terminate federal funding to hospitals that don’t comply with rules to participate with these national health programs. Alabama added another five thousand coronavirus cases in the last two weeks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is watching for a possible surge of COVID cases in the U.S., as is Dr. Lee.

“I’m hopeful that the vaccines that we have on hand that are incredibly effective will help prevent those hospitalizations. And so, if we see an increase, it won’t be as high as in the past,” said Lee.

The University of Alabama will continue its mask mandate through the summer. However, the six foot social distancing mandate has been reduced to three feet. The UA system plans to return to regular in-person instruction in the fall.

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.
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