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Ivey extends state mask order, urges patience

During a press conference Thursday, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced an extension of the state’s “Safer at Home” order, including a mandate that citizens wear face masks in public, for an additional six weeks.

The extension comes as the state continues to see some of its highest daily COVID-19 case numbers since the start of the pandemic last year – according to Ivey, the state’s seven-day average was “way above” previous months’ averages and at one point last week only 39 Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds were available to coronavirus patients across Alabama.

Ivey urged patience among citizens as the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) works “around the clock” to get COVID-19 vaccines into arms and  the state continues to lack enough vaccine to get a shot to everyone who wants one.

Ivey then thanked citizens for “keeping on keeping-on” throughout the pandemic.

The ADPH has been battling criticism over the vaccine rollout in the state, with a Wednesday press release stating that the department has been distributing its full federal allotment of 50,000 to 60,000 doses for the past four weeks.

“Every person who receives a COVID-19 shot is deserving of one and will receive it, as we are determined to make sure that no vaccine is sitting unused on the shelf,” Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said in the press release. “We are making every effort to get shots into arms as quickly as possible. The biggest obstacle to vaccination is still the limited vaccine supply. We are attempting to manage expectations, because the timeline for receipt of vaccine has not changed and we cannot give people a resource we don’t have yet.”

According to the ADPH press release, a totalof 446,150 doses of 640,150 allocated to the state ave been delivered and no doses have been discarded.

As of Jan. 20, the ADPH reported that more than 184,600 doses of vaccine have been administered in the state, which has seen 429,655 cases of COVID-19 and just under 6,300 deaths.

The press release noted that all health departments are required to administer all inventory of vaccine each week – because some smaller, rural counties may not be able to give vaccine at that volume, the ADPH is now partnering with community providers to get shots out to the community.

The department is currently vaccinating seniors 75 years or older, of which there are about 350,000 eligible Alabamians, and first responders, of which there are more than 325,000 eligible residents.