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Alabama governor extends mask order but says mandate will end in April

Gov. Kay Ivey's announcement comes days after the governors of Texas and Mississippi said they were lifting their states' mask mandates.
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The governor of Alabama said Thursday that she will extend the state's mask mandate through April 9 and then lift the order.

Gov. Kay Ivey said the extension would give businesses time to implement their own policies and make any necessary adjustments before to the deadline.

The current order requires people to wear masks in public whenever they are within 6 feet of someone else from a different household. Face coverings are also required in schools and colleges for both employees and students in the second grade and above.

Once the order ends next month, masks will no longer be mandated.

"There's no question that wearing masks has been one of my greatest tools in combatting the spread of the virus," Ivey said at a news conference Thursday.

"And even when we lift the mask order, I will continue to wear my mask while I'm around others and strongly urge my fellow citizens to use common sense and do the same thing. But at that time, it will become a matter of personal responsibility and not a government mandate," she added.

Ivey said the state had kept the mask order in place for a "generous amount of time."

The governors of Texas and Mississippi announced this week that they would lift their states' mask mandates and roll back many of their Covid-19 health requirements. All three governors are Republicans.

"It is now time to open Texas 100 percent," Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Tuesday. "Covid has not suddenly disappeared, but state mandates are no longer needed."

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said in a tweet that he felt it was time to lift the order because "our hospitalizations and case numbers have plummeted, and the vaccine is being rapidly distributed."

Reeves said in another tweet: "Executive orders that interfered with peoples' lives were the worst, but the only possible, intervention for much of the last year. Now, we are putting our focus towards rapid vaccine distribution. We are getting out of the business of telling people what they can and cannot do."

The mandate ended in Mississippi on Wednesday.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has expressed concern about states' rolling back coronavirus mandates.

"Please hear me clearly," she said at a White House Covid-19 briefing this week. "At this level of cases with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained."

According to the latest NBC News data, more than 26 million people have been fully vaccinated after authorization for emergency use was granted for two vaccines, made by Moderna and by Pfizer and BioNTech.