Jul 15, 2020
AL Governor Kay Ivey COVID-19 Press Conference July 15
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey gave a press conference on July 15. She issued a statewide mask order. Read the full transcript here.
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Governor Kay Ivey: (00:10)
Well, good morning, everyone. Our current safer at home order will expire Friday, July 31st at 5:00 PM. And Dr. Harrison and I are here today to talk about the growing number of cases, despite the guidance that is in place. Now, he’ll go into specific details about those numbers, but here’s the bottom line. Overnight, last night, we had 2,141 new cases. That brings our total to 58,270 cases, and we’ve had 1,183 deaths.
Governor Kay Ivey: (00:55)
Over a two week period from June 29 to July 13, the total number of COVID case 19 in Alabama Rose by 50%. And the number of COVID patients hospitalized during this same time period has increased significantly. Nine of the first 13 days of July saw daily increases of more than 1000 cases. Despite all our best efforts that we’re seeing increased cases every day are still occurring, and we are almost to the point where our hospital ICU’s overwhelmed. Earlier this week, 87% of ICU beds state wide were occupied.
Governor Kay Ivey: (01:47)
Folks, the numbers just do not lie. For these reasons today with the support of Dr. Harris, the medical community, and many in our business community, I am announcing a statewide mandatory mask wearing effective starting tomorrow, July 15th at 5:00 PM to be in place until the end of the month.
Governor Kay Ivey: (02:18)
This will be in addition to our safer at home order that is currently in place. And as everyone knows, at our last press conference on June 30th two weeks ago, we extended our safer at home or until the end of July. And some other you will recall at that time that while Dr. Harrison and I could order you to wear a mask, it would be next to impossible to enforce.
Governor Kay Ivey: (02:46)
I also remember saying that you shouldn’t have to be ordered to do what is in your own best interest and in the best interest of those you know and love. Well, folks, I still believe this is going to be a difficult order to enforce, and I always prefer a personal responsibility over a government mandate. And yet I also know with all my heart, that the numbers and the data over the past few weeks are definitely trending in the wrong direction. To reiterate, nothing else of this order changes, and at this time we will not further limit capacity nor restricting events from operating. However, as I have stated, this mask order is hard to enforce. So once again, I’m calling on everyone, everyone in our state to practice personal responsibility and wear a mask.
Governor Kay Ivey: (03:56)
I continue to believe that personal responsibility is everyone’s responsibility. To help our fellow citizens, we have created graphics for our businesses and stores that they can download for free and can be printed to displayed in a window, letting the public know that their business requires a mask. These graphics are available governor.alabama.gov. And I’m hoping my friends here in the media today will share those numbers and those graphics with you as well.
Governor Kay Ivey: (04:35)
Throughout this process, I have said that I reserve the right to come back and reverse course, this mask mandate is the first step of doing just that. Clearly, there’s some other more restrictive actions that we could take, such as closing things back down, but I don’t want to go there unless there are absolutely no other options available. And as I’ve repeatedly said, throughout this pandemic, to have a life, you need a livelihood. And the economy and livelihood about small business men and women, as well as I workers weighs heavy on my heart every day.
Governor Kay Ivey: (05:18)
And moreover, to keep our businesses open and keep our economy on a pathway toward recovery, it’s vitally important for our people to continue to earn a paycheck. You cannot work if you are not healthy. So that is why I’m trusting the people of Alabama to do the right thing and wear a mask. With everyone’s cooperation, we can slow down the spread of this virus. And let me wrap up by reminding everyone that we’ve got many, many big, and important decisions to make in the coming weeks, like trying to reopen our schools without spreading the virus, going back to college, even the whole debate among our universities about whether or not there’ll be football in the fall. And we’re going to need, everyone’s help, if we’re going to slow the spread and turn these trends into a different direction.
Governor Kay Ivey: (06:18)
We are counting on our business community to help enforce this. We’re going to need our small towns and cities to help us as well. And we’re certainly not asking our sheriffs and police officers to go out looking for people who are not wearing a mask and arrest them, but we are asking everyone to do a better job practicing social distancing, personal hygiene, and now wearing face masks.
Governor Kay Ivey: (06:46)
As hard as it is to admit, we’re all learning to live with COVID-19 until the cases start to decline and or our medical experts find a vaccine or a cure. And folks, if it feels like guidance is constantly changing, I completely understand, but things are evolving very fast every day, and we are making the best decisions we can with the information we have available. And I sure know that many of us are fatigued by COVID-19. Well, let me just encourage everyone to hang in there, folks. We may not know when, but we will get through this. So let me invite Dr. Harris to come and give his statement, and then we’ll be happy to take some questions, Dr. Harris.
Dr. Scott Harriss: (07:46)
Thank you. Good morning, everybody. Thank you for joining us and Governor Ivey, thank you so much for what you’re doing. I appreciate it so much, all that you’re doing. The governor gave you the updates. The numbers are not very good. We have new numbers, I think posted probably as of this minute or any minute that you can see on our dashboard, but we did set a new record high in daily cases yesterday of over 2100 cases.
Dr. Scott Harriss: (08:17)
We’ll have between 40 and 45 deaths added to the total today. And that that gives the total that governor Ivey just mentioned about 1,183 total deaths so far, that’s about 2% case fatality rate. I think the things that are very significant to us, one is that a full third of all the cases we have, have been added just in the last two weeks. We have added more than 18,000 cases just in the past two weeks alone.
Dr. Scott Harriss: (08:47)
That’s not a reflection of testing because our percentage of tests that are positive continues to go up. The most recent complete data leading up to the fourth of July showed about 14% of all tests were positive. It’s still preliminary, but the numbers that we’ll release for this past week are going to be more like between 16 and 17% of all tests are going to be positive. So clearly we have more disease circulating in our community. More reticent to us is a situation of our hospitals. As of this morning, hospitals reported a new high in the number of inpatients, 1,477 inpatients were reported as of this morning, plus another 541 persons under investigation. So more than 2000 people across the state are confirmed or suspected of this infection who are occupying hospital beds. There are about 30 hospitals in the state now that have either very limited or no ICU capacity at all.
Dr. Scott Harriss: (09:43)
And as the governor mentioned, only about 12% of our ICU beds are available. Alabama is not headed in the right direction. I believe that this mask ordinance is the right thing to do because it will prevent disease transmission. We really don’t have a lot of other options at this time. We’re frequently asked everyone, asks, “Does the economy need to be shut down?” And the answer is no, not if people will cooperate with orders that we have in place. Face coverings or masks will prevent disease transmission. We don’t have an effective vaccine. We don’t have highly effective treatment. We don’t have really many other options at all, but we do have the ability to try to keep person-to-person spread from occurring. I do want to echo with the governor said, we all have a personal responsibility to do this.
Dr. Scott Harriss: (10:34)
People certainly will be upset about being told to do anything, but this is a health order that protects the people around you. This is something that we do because it keeps other people safe. Those people that we know and care about, but even those trainers that we encounter. The specifics of the order will say that you should wear a mask when you’re in public and you’re in close contact with other people.
Dr. Scott Harriss: (11:02)
So specifically when you’re within six feet of somebody from another household in an indoor space that’s open to the public, when you’re in public transportation, or if you’re in an outdoor space where there are 10 or more people together. There are a lot of exceptions in this. We certainly recognize that many people are not able to wear a mask, or there are many situations where wearing a mask is just not practical or just doesn’t make sense.
Dr. Scott Harriss: (11:26)
And we’ve tried to make every allowance for that. Certainly as the governor’s stated, no one is interested in arresting people who don’t have masks or issuing citations of people that don’t have masks. But this is something that will prevent disease from occurring in our state, and it’s the right thing to do. We work very closely with a number of cities and counties over the past few weeks. Many of them as you know, have enacted their own face covering requirements. And we certainly applaud them doing that and commend them for doing that. But clearly there needed to be additional action, and I appreciate the governor announcing that today. So governor Ivey, that’s all I had prepared, but it’d be happy to answer a questions.
Speaker 2: (12:14)
Governor, I know you touched on enforcement and said, the idea is not to arrest people. But how will it be enforced and what would be the penalty for somebody that just refuses to wear a mask?
Governor Kay Ivey: (12:24)
Well, the idea is not to have to issue penalties, but there is a penalty of $500 and or jail time, but that’s not the goal. The goal is to demonstrate the importance, the urgency of engaging this important tool that we all have access to, that’s a face covering. CDC and others continue to tell us that of all the things we do, wearing a mask is the most helpful, especially to slow down community spread. It’s just a smart thing to do as a person, as a citizen, as one who loves your family, and who loves your neighbor. It’s simply the right thing to do is to wear a mask. Yes, sir.
Speaker 4: (13:13)
Governor, you talked about the importance of reopening schools in the fall. Yesterday, you invited a bipartisan group of lawmakers to speak to the state School Board. They presented their plan of wanting to hire more school nurses, screenings and isolation centers at schools. Were you concerned that the board wasn’t that receptive of the plan from lawmakers?
Governor Kay Ivey: (13:34)
We left that meeting after there was full discussions with instructions for Dr. Mackey to put a plan in writing that bind some of all of the senator’s or his own plan or whatever, but give us that in writing by Friday of this week. And then we’ll go with that, look at that.
Speaker 4: (13:50)
Speaker 5: (13:53)
For Dr. Harris. It will take probably around two weeks to begin to see any impact of this mask order. What’s your level of concern about how the hospitals will handle the impact over the next two weeks? Because it seems like we’re really on the upward increase?
Governor Kay Ivey: (14:10)
Well, starting with an increase in the requirements for hospitalization, especially in ICU beds, if that space runs out, that is a huge problem for us to find accessible places to put our patients. So more of the reason we need to slow the spread down and every citizen can be a part of that solution. So we are pleading with the people of Alabama to wear a mask. Yes, sir.
Speaker 6: (14:37)
Governor, this order, obviously doesn’t extend into the school year, but could you see it getting extended past the July into August? And if so, would it apply to schools? Would it apply to students and teachers in school?
Governor Kay Ivey: (14:53)
Certainly we’re going to do everything we can to protect the health and safety of our teachers and our students and the staff that serve them. And we’ll just have to keep an eye on the numbers and see how it goes. That’s just one of those things we don’t know right this minute. I hope we can open schools. We need to open schools. Our students need to be back in their physical classroom. And so we certainly hope that can occur. Yes, sir.
Speaker 7: (15:18)
Governor, can you tell us about the conversation that you had with Dr. Birx and [inaudible 00:15:26].
Speaker 8: (15:20)
Governor Kay Ivey: (15:34)
Dr. Birx was [inaudible 00:15:34] with us this afternoon, and we’re certainly honored that she would come to our great state. Obviously they have looked at Alabama’s situation and found it as a hot spot and one that needs to be focused on. So we are grateful for her expertise and she’s coming to share with us this afternoon. And we’ll pull together a group of business leaders and faith leaders and help folks here at the state to meet with her as well.
Speaker 9: (16:02)
Governor, I know you received a letter from Jefferson County’s health officer, Dr. Mark Wilson. Did that help influence your decision on this as well with the mask ordinance?
Governor Kay Ivey: (16:14)
Something about a health officer.
Speaker 10: (16:14)
Speaker 9: (16:18)
Yes. Dr. Mark Wilson in Jefferson County. He sent you a letter yesterday requesting the mask order as well. Did that influence your decision?
Governor Kay Ivey: (16:27)
I hadn’t seen that letter yet.
Speaker 8: (16:31)
[inaudible 00:16:31] one more question.
Speaker 11: (16:35)
Governor, if we could go back to enforcement, there seems to be some confusion on how this will be enforced. If you can kind of go over that again.
Governor Kay Ivey: (16:43)
Well, technically, there is a fine of $500 in place or jail time. But we are not asking the Sheriff’s and the police officers to seek out people without face masks, that is not to goal. The goal is just to emphasize the importance of everybody wearing a face mask. We simply want to inform people. It’s not our desire to give them a fine or anything if we can help it.
Speaker 8: (17:07)
All right, that’s all the time we have, [inaudible 00:17:11] wrap this up.
Governor Kay Ivey: (17:15)
So thank you all so much. Stay tuned, this health order with the face mask, et cetera, remains in effect until July 31st at 5:00. Thank you so much.