Public officials in Dallas County, Alabama have issued a new mask mandate for county buildings that deal with the public, according to local outlet WAKA 8, becoming the first Republican state to introduce new restrictions.
The new mandate comes as COVID cases have risen in Alabama and across the United States probate Judge Jimmy Nunn told the outlet. Hospitalizations for COVID have more than doubled over the last three months, according to CDC data.
Nunn said there had only been some isolated cases of COVID at buildings open to the public, but that the mask mandate was a precautionary measure to protect workers. It will remain in effect as long as cases continue to climb, Nunn told WAKA 8.
Nunn did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast.
Elsewhere in Alabama, Kinterbish Junior High School in Cuba posted on Facebook that “due to the slow raise of Covid cases” students, employees, and visitors were asked to wear masks from Aug. 22.
Alabama’s statewide mask mandate expired on April 9, 2021 but the state’s Department of Public Health recommends face-covering in public as part of its COVID-19 safety guidance.
Dallas County’s new mask mandate appears at odds with Alabama Senator Katie Britt, who is one of the co-signers of the “Freedom To Breathe Act,” which aims to prevent the federal government or commercial airlines from introducing mask requirements.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, draconian shutdowns and mask mandates inflicted immense damage across our nation,” Britt said in statement on Thursday. “Enough is enough. More than three years later, it’s clear we need to embrace individual liberty and facts rather than a society gripped by fear.”
That bid stalled on Thursday after it failed to garner unanimous support to vote on the legislation, leaving the bill languishing in the upper chamber.
Sen. Britt did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast.
John Wahl, chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, told The Daily Beast while local mask mandates were currently up to county officials to decide he expected new legislation to be introduced statewide addressing “medical freedom,” including the rights of individuals to choose whether to mask or be vaccinated.
“I would be very disappointed to see widespread mask mandates come back to Alabama,” he said. “At this point, forcing people to wear masks against their will is not good government.”
Governors and local lawmakers in other some other red states have been campaigning against any further COVID restrictions in recent days.
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster posted a video on social media Thursday announcing that he would block any new restrictions despite rising cases, describing the measures as “foolish.”
“I can assure the people of South Carolina we will not have mask mandates. We will not close schools, and we will not lock down,” he said.
Presidential hopeful Gov. Ron De Santis of Florida pledged to bring about “a reckoning for those who devised the failed and destructive biomedical policies that caused damage throughout our country,” in a tweet on Wednesday.