Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has extended her Safer at Home order that includes a statewide mask requirement until Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 at 5 p.m. Her previous extended order was set to expire on Friday afternoon.

Individuals are required to continue to wear a mask or other facial covering when in public and in close contact with other people to prevent community spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus. Everything in her order essentially stays the same as north Alabama prepares to start a new year with two vaccines in the pipeline. Depending on the trends with new cases, Ivey’s order may be extended or modified before Jan. 22.

“The facts are indisputable,” Ivey said at Wednesday’s press conference. “Our cases continue to rise, and we have more Alabamians diagnosed with COVID-19 than ever before. Because of this, we’ll be extending the current order, with no changes. Because the pandemic has stretched much longer than we ever imagined, we’re all just downright exhausted. Even though the vaccine’s delivery is right around the corner, we shouldn’t lull ourselves into complacency by thinking that we’re out of the woods yet.

“Y’all, none of this has been easy. As I have done previously, I cannot thank the people of Alabama enough for the sacrifices you are making—sacrifices for yourself and for others. We look forward to the days when we can greet one another again and interact in public without masks. However, this is the one sacrifice we can all make in order to keep our friends and loved ones safe and keep the rest of the disruptions to our personal lives at a minimum.”

Joining Ivey at Wednesday’s press conference was State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, who said the state is “seeing more than 3,000 new cases per day for the last few days in Alabama.”

Harris said vaccine distribution is “imminent” with a rollout starting as early as next week if all goes well. He said he will take the vaccine himself and recommends it to everyone.

Harris said vaccine shipments come with 950 doses each that must be stored in coolers and are recommended for use within 10 days. There are a limited number of facilities across the state that can keep it in that type of cold storage, he said.

“Once hospitals get the vaccine, they will be ready to get shots into arms that day,” Harris said.

Selected hospitals will keep an allotment of the vaccine doses for their own staff. The rest will be distributed based on prioritization of risk, putting healthcare workers and employees and residents of skilled nursing facilities at the top of the list.

Harris said the state hospital association, Alabama nurses and pharmacists have all been consulted in devising a strategy for distribution.

“Some front line workers who are deserving will not be in the first round of about 41,000 doses of the vaccine from Pfizer,” Harris said. “Paramedics, EMS and first responders are essential to maintain our society, and they will be vaccinated as soon as possible. Our nursing home residents are medically fragile and have taken on about a third of the deaths we’ve seen from this coronavirus. Alabama nursing homes have still fared better than most states. At the end of the first week, a second shipment will go out to nursing homes.”

Distributing a vaccine equitably and fairly is an issue state officials are facing.

“Identifying people by a single risk category or job description is not always the most equitable way of going about things,” he said, but the reality is that the average, healthy person in Alabama may have to wait until the Spring to be able to get vaccinated.

“It will probably be early summer before there’s enough vaccine for the average Alabamian, but by then, there should be multiple providers to administer it,” Harris said.

Masks remain required in public when interacting within six feet with people of another household, subject to certain exceptions. Masks are required in schools and colleges, where possible, for employees and students in second grade and above.

Entertainment venues, athletic activities, schools, child day care facilities and retail stores remain open subject to social distancing and sanitation rules and guidelines.

Ivey asked Alabamians to continue to be considerate of each other.

“I ask everyone – as we strive to get back to normal & as the vaccine begins to be rolled out to the most vulnerable populations – that we don’t just flip the switch & mentally move on from taking precautions,” she said.

Ivey continued, “As we transition from Thanksgiving into the season of Advent, the celebration of Hanukkah or other reasons which brings friends and families together, please continue to be mindful of others as you plan your activities. Thank you for hanging in there and doing the right thing.”

As of Wednesday, the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Alabama since the first reported case on March 13 has reached 280,187 with 3,985 fatalities in that timeframe attributed to COVID-19, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard. The state saw 41,430 new cases from 120,729 tests conducted in the last 14 days. ADPH estimates 1.6 million COVID-19 tests have been done in Alabama since the pandemic began. Statewide, 27,323 hospitalizations since March 13 are attributed to the coronavirus, and ADPH estimates 168,387 cases in the state are presumed recoveries.

In Jackson County, ADPH reports 4,121 cases of infection and 24 deaths. In the last 14 days, 1,092 positive cases have been detected as a result of 2,094 tests conducted locally. Inside the county, a total of 21,409 tests have been performed.

Inside DeKalb County, ADPH reports 5,558 cases of infection and 46 deaths. In the last 14 days, 809 positive cases have been detected as a result of 1,576 tests conducted locally. Inside the county, a total of 22,072 tests have been performed.

Inside Marshall County, ADPH reports 7.435 cases of infection and 59 deaths attributed to the coronavirus. In the last 14 days, 1,373 positive cases have been detected as a result of 2,558 tests conducted locally. Inside the county, a total of 32,127 tests have been performed.

To learn more about the extended Safer at Home Order, visit https://governor.alabama.gov/newsroom/2020/12/governor-ivey-extends-safer-at-home-order/.

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