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Gov. Kay Ivey hoped that enforcing a statewide mask mandate two weeks ago would force COVID-19 numbers in the state of Alabama to begin trending downward. As no progress seems to be seen, she's taking precautions to a new level.

Ivey announced during a Wednesday morning press conference that she will be extending her "Safer at Home" order until the end of August. Alabama's State Health Officer Scott Harris joined her to offer support and insight into this decision.

A "few minor modifications" will be added to this extension. Most notably, the statewide mask ordinance will be extended until the end of next month.

"When you've been elected governor, you have to try to do the right thing and not necessarily the most popular thing," she said. "I have made my share of mistakes during this pandemic, but my hope is to make as many good decisions as I can."

Another major point of the amended order is that students, in an ideal world, would not go to school in-person until the numbers begin to substantially trend downward. She asked academic leaders, teachers and families to consider keeping students in a virtual learning system until it is safer to return to schools, but if that is not a viable option, there will be new restrictions for the school year.

"[Everyone] will now be required to wear masks from seventh grade through college," Ivey said.

Alabama's COVID-19 prevention plan looks something like a traffic light. Residents were kept at a red light (Stay at Home) until April 30, then a yellow light (Amended Safer at Home) became the newest normal until the end of this week. Ivey has amended the yellow light status a few times over the past three months with ideas like considering which businesses should stay closed and adding a mask mandate two weeks ago.

The third and final step to Alabama's COVID-19 plan is the coveted green light status, "safer apart." While residents were hoping Ivey would greenlight her own green light this week, the data is not favoring the state to be prepared to return to normalcy.

As of this morning, Harris reported 81,687 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Alabama since the Alabama Department of Public Health began monitoring the data in March. More than 22,000 cases were confirmed in the past two weeks, and there were about 1,345 cases recorded yesterday. Harris said 1,493 people have died due to COVID-19.

"Overall, our numbers are not yet particularly encouraging," Harris said of the data.

Harris mentioned that the July 4 holiday is still showing consequences in hospital rooms statewide, and while the numbers may be thinning ever so slightly, he is not at all confident that the state can begin to lift restrictions just yet.

Harris stressed that the mask ordinance, which has garnered much criticism and debate since its inception statewide on July 15, is still pertinent to Alabama's recovery plan.

"There is no argument about whether these are effective," He said. "Let me ask all Alabamians to continue wearing [masks]... As we begin to move toward school reopenings, it's going to be more important than ever."

Ivey took a few moments at the beginning of the press conference to acknowledge Rep. John Lewis, who passed away on July 17 of pancreatic cancer. A Troy native, Lewis fought for civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s in Alabama before going on to serve as a U.S. Representative for Georgia's 5th congressional district for over 30 years. Perhaps the most significant event of Lewis' activism career was his leading the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma on Bloody Sunday in 1965.

Lewis' body lay in state in the Alabama State Capitol and crossed over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma for a final time on July 26. He lay in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda in Washington D.C. for two days this week – the first Black lawmaker to do so. He lies in state at the Georgia State Capitol Rotunda today and tomorrow, then will be interred at South View Cemetery in Atlanta after a private funeral.

"Since his death, so much has been written and said about Rep. Lewis that it would be hard to add much more to his incredible story and truly inspirational life," Ivey said. "We are grateful to the Lord for having had him for as long as we did... May he rest in peace."

As of right now, the Safer at Home order is set to expire on Aug. 31 at 5 p.m. Stay tuned to this site and station for more updates as they become available.

Watch the full press conference below.

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