Kay Ivey

File / The Outlook

Alabama's mask mandate will expire Friday, April 9 at 5 p.m. at which point the state will move to a more relaxed "Safer Apart" health order, Gov. Kay Ivey announced Wednesday.

"We are still under a public health order but it is greatly slimmed down," Ivey said.

Under the new order expiring Wednesday, May 5, masks and social distancing are encouraged but not mandated.

"What remains in the order is still the health order about hospital visitation and nursing home citation allowances," state health officer Dr. Scott Harris said. "The rest is encouragement, not orders."

Ivey encouraged the Alabamians to abide by the mask mandates set by local and national businesses, saying it was "their prerogative and we should respect that." Ivey said she herself would continue to wear a mask in crowded places and encourage others to do so.

"I certainly have no jurisdiction over the cities but businesses and other folks certainly have the right to set their own rules for doing business in their stores," she said. "So I just applaud the initiative of local people wanting to continue to encourage the mask."

Ivey was also encouraging of the cities, including Birmingham, that have already set local mask mandates.

"If you want to wear the mask I certainly encourage you and I certainly encourage the cities as well," she said.

According to Ivey, as of Monday, Alabama's seven-day average for newly reported COVID-19 cases was 328 cases per day, down 92% from Alabama's Jan. 10 peak.

"We're not out of the woods yet and yet we feel so much better about where we are now," Harris said.

As of Wednesday, 10,652 Alabamians have died of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. Over 320,000 are presumed recovered.