Alabama, Montana mandate coronavirus face coverings to help stop spread

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The governors of Alabama and Montana issued mask orders Wednesday in response to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak across the country.

“We are asking everyone to do a better job practicing social distancing personal hygiene and, now, wearing face masks,” Republican Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey wrote in a Twitter thread explaining the move.

Alabama residents will be required to wear masks or face coverings “when in public and in close contact with other people” until July 31 at 5 p.m. They can be store-bought, homemade, or even improvised from commonly available materials as long as they cover one’s nostrils and mouth

Businesses will not be required to deny entry to people who break the mask rule, but they have the right to, according to the governor’s office.

Alabama had seen almost 60,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 1,200 deaths as of Wednesday evening, according to Johns Hopkins University.

In Montana, Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock issued a statewide directive requiring face coverings in certain indoor spaces and for organized outdoor activities in all counties that have a minimum of four active, confirmed coronavirus cases.

Montana, with about one-fifth of Alabama’s population spread out over an area nearly three times its size, according to the Census Bureau, had more than 2,000 cases and 34 deaths as of Tuesday.

The Montana rules allow residents to remove their masks to eat or drink in public, to attend medical appointments, when speaking in front of a socially distanced audience and if a preexisting condition precludes the ability to safely wear a mask. Businesses must provide masks for their employees.

The directive also allows peace officers to treat people who refuse to wear a mask as trespassers upon request of a business owner or other authority. However, Bullock’s office said that law enforcement should focus on issuing warnings and educating violators about the risks of spreading the illness.

“There’s no reason this needs to be political because COVID-19 isn’t political,” the governor said. “Instead, this is about being a Montanan and being supportive of those around us.”