Despite the COVID-19 vaccination only being available for people 16 years of age and up, Governor Kay Ivey has set Alabama’s mask mandate to end next Friday, April 9. The mask mandate was put in place to help stop the spread of the virus, so if the vaccine isn’t universally available to everyone, the mask mandate should not be discontinued.
Gov. Ivey claims that there is currently no plan in place to extend the mandate, and the state is already divided. An online petition has already been created to extend the mask mandate, while other Alabamians are glad to stop wearing the masks in public.
I understand not wanting to wear the masks — they’re hot, they give people breakouts and they muffle our voices. However, these issues seem to only be those of discomfort and annoyance, and when I think about all the good that the masks do for stopping the spread of COVID-19, I can’t help but wonder why Gov. Ivey is so intent on not extending the mandate.
Is it a result of the fact that the mask mandate has become political — with many Republicans against it while Democrats are for it? According to NBC News, the mask mandate has been lifted in several states including Arkansas, Arizona, Iowa, Mississippi, Montana, Texas and Wyoming. Perhaps, Gov. Ivey wants to lift the mandate in order to prove that we have been successful in keeping our numbers down.
However, even if our COVID-19 cases are lower than they once were, I worry that if the mandate is lifted too soon, we may see a surge in new cases. U.S. News claims that dropping the mandate could lead to people having a false sense of security that the virus is over. Data from Johns Hopkins University shows that cases in Texas, one of the first states to lift the mandate, peaked higher at the start of March 2021 than they did at the start of October 2020.
Thankfully, our country is at a point where many people are becoming eligible for the COVID vaccine, and many of those people are getting vaccinated. Nevertheless, at this point, not everyone is eligible for the vaccine. Even I myself am not eligible for the vaccine. This leads me to wonder: if not everyone has the chance to get vaccinated, isn’t it irresponsible to allow people to put others in the community at risk? The masks don’t just protect us, but others as well. If not everyone has access to the vaccine, who are we to discontinue wearing masks?
Luckily, we are getting to a point where our state is gradually going back to normal. Why risk it? Why take the chance of getting to go completely back to normal sooner, just so we can have the convenience of not having to wear a mask to the grocery store? I just can’t see the harm in extending the mask mandate until everyone is eligible to receive the vaccination.
I know that everyone wants the virus to be over and to go back to normal life as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the virus can’t even begin to be over until everyone has had the opportunity to be vaccinated against it. Gov. Ivey should take this into account and extend the mask mandate. We must think of not just ourselves, but of the other people we are putting at risk by lifting the mandate. We must be patient, just for a little bit longer.