MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey this week urged people to wear masks in public after the statewide mask mandate expires next month.

Ivey has been adamant that she will not extend the mask mandate past April 9. On Monday, her office released designs for signs for businesses to use to request patrons to wear masks. The designs range from “Mask Preferred” to “Mask Required For Service.”

“After April 9, masks will no longer be a mandate, but they remain one of the most successful tools we have to keep folks safe from COVID-19,” Ivey said in a statement. "Masks are soon to be a memory but until then, lets wear them out.”

Alabama this week expanded eligibility for COVID-19 vaccinations. The expansion, which started Monday, will add more than 2 million people to the groups who can get a COVID-19 vaccination in Alabama, roughly doubling the number of people now eligible.

The new eligible groups include more frontline workers; people 55 and older; those with intellectual and developmental disabilities; and residents age 16 to 64 with certain high-risk medical conditions. The qualifying medical conditions include cancer, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, smoking, obesity, sickle cell disease and heart conditions.

State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris on Friday said most adults will now be eligible for shots and urged people to be patient as they seek vaccination appointments.

“Probably between half and two-thirds of all the adults in the state are going to be covered,” Harris said. “So that will be a significant increase in demand."

The Alabama National Guard on Tuesday began a series of COVID-19 vaccine clinics around the state as health officials try to bring the shots to rural areas that may have fewer providers.

The Alabama National Guard is providing first-dose COVID-19 vaccination clinics in 24 counties for the next three weeks. There will be a round of second-dose clinics April 13-30.

Ivey activated guard units to set up the mobile sites to bring COVID-19 vaccinations to underserved and rural communities. A list of vaccinations clinics can be found at the Alabama Department of Public Health website.

The vaccine will be administered at the clinics located in: Barbour, Bullock, Butler, Choctaw, Clarke, Coffee, Conecuh, Covington, Crenshaw, Dale, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Henry, Lowndes, Macon, Marengo, Monroe, Perry, Pike, Russell, Sumter, Washington and Wilcox counties.

There continues to be positive signs in the state. The number of COVID-19 patients in Alabama hospitals has dipped to below 400. It had been as high as 3,000 at the start of the year.


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