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Cloth and homemade masks are allowed under Gov. Kay Ivey's mask mandate.

Some may debate how effective a mask is at preventing the spread of COVID-19, but medical professionals say it’s better than no protection.

Gov. Kay Ivey added to that debate Wednesday requiring all citizens to wear a mask when in public.

Many have already been encouraging everyone to wear a mask including Russell Medical’s director of education, safety and accreditation Misty Anderson.

“I’m passionate about wearing masks,” Anderson said. “Most healthcare personnel feel it provides a significant degree of protection. It is one thing we can do for the prevention of the spread of COVID-19. It provides protection for the person wearing the mask and for someone else.”

Anderson said it may be possible for COVID-19 to be transmitted in other ways but through droplets is by far more common.

“When you are speaking with someone, they spit some while talking or cough,” Anderson said. “The droplets land on the mask instead of mucus membranes. A mask also prevents you transferring droplets to someone else.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states COVID-19 is mostly spread person to person.

Following Ivey’s suggestion also prevents another common way bacteria get into the human body.

“Wearing a mask also blocks your hands from touching your face,” Anderson said. “Your hands touch so much.”

Hospitals across the state are pleased with mask order to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Alabama Hospital Association president Dr. Don Williamson said Ivey’s order is the best option for helping decrease hospitalizations seen due to the coronavirus.

“Having a statewide order is a move that gives us the best hope of slowing down the spread of the virus and decreasing the stress on our hospitals and other healthcare providers,” Williamson said in a release.

Williamson said everyone needs to follow Ivey’s directive.

“We urge all Alabamians, young and old, to heed the new state directive and wear their masks,” Williamson said. “Coupled with social distancing and handwashing, wearing a mask is critical in preventing the virus from worsening.”

The order goes into effect 5 p.m. today and will be in place through the end of the month unless Ivey changes her order.

Those wishing to enter the Tallapoosa County Courthouse in Dadeville and the Tallapoosa County Courthouse Annex in Alexander City will have to comply with Ivey’s order.

“(Tallapoosa County) employees will be required to wear masks at any time they are unable to comply with the 6-foot distancing guideline,” Tallapoosa County administrator Blake Beck said. “Members of the public will be required to have a mask on when entering a county building and at any time they are unable to social distance.”

There are some exceptions to Ivey’s order such as when engaged in athletic activities and if diagnosed with certain medical conditions.

Worship services are also exempt from Ivey’s order although she still encourages it. Alex City Methodist Church pastor Wayne Cowhick said his church just started holding in-person worship services two weeks ago but has not decided what to do just yet and Ivey’s order on wearing a mask.

“We are strongly recommending (wearing masks),” Cowhick said. “For this order, we haven’t decided what to do with worship services. I’m speaking with the worship leaders and musical leaders about what we need to do. We have to be careful.”

Cowhick acknowledged many religious people believe God will look after them but simple tasks can help.

“It’s a trying time,” Cowhick said. “It’s a strange virus. We have to be careful how to handle it. We will take it seriously. God is in control.”

Ivey’s order requires the mouth and nostrils to be covered. Masks can be bandanas, surgical masks or made from cloth. Anderson said no matter the mask type a few things should be practiced while using any type of mask.

• Be careful putting on and taking off masks not to touch the main surfaces with hands

• Remove masks at the ears

• Wash hands before putting on masks and after removal is highly recommended

• Wash cloth masks daily

Anderson said masks provide some level of protection.

“Are cloth masks as good as the N95 masks? No,” Anderson said. “They are still very effective if used properly. A cloth mask provides much better protection than without a mask.”

Cliff Williams is a staff writer for Tallapoosa Publishers.