BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - It’s the law in Alabama as of Thursday - young and old will have to wear a face mask while out in public. The order is set to expire July 31. But, a UAB health expert says don’t expect to put away your face mask anytime soon.
Governor Kay Ivey’s mandatory face covering order is set to expire in a couple of weeks, but if there continues to be a dramatic increase in the number of confirmed positive cases and the number of hospitalizations, that may not happen.
Dr. Rachael Lee, an infectious disease expert at UAB, said in the beginning there was confusion over mandating face masks for the public. Now she said there is more information to show face coverings do work in slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
Dr. Lee said it will take months to determine if the numbers are dropping with the statewide mandate. That’s one reason she expects the mandate will be extended. Dr. Lee also said if people don’t take the health threat seriously and cover up the mandate could stay in place for quite a while.
“I am very hopeful in the next couple of months we can get over the surge. If we are all very careful, continue our social distancing, wearing our masks. I know people don’t want to hear this right now we should prepare ourselves we could have to wear the masks through the fall and until we have a vaccine,” she said.
The vaccine could be later this year or next year. Dr. Lee said if people don’t wear face masks, social distance and follow other health steps, numbers won’t be coming down any time soon.
This comes as schools prepare to reopen.
Dr. Lee said schools need to social distance where they can. Make space for desks. Dr. Lee has two young boys now in summer camp at school and they wear masks when they are inside.
“If my five-year-old and nine year old can do it. They love running around and they can wear a mask. I believe our youngest can do this and be safe. I think there is a way to safely reopen. The concern is the continuous increase in numbers.”
Dr. Lee said if we continue to see a rate of 20% confirmed cases in Alabama that will put teachers at risk. The statewide face mask order could impact those numbers and bring the rate down.