Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) released a statement on Friday, applauding the remaining school systems and universities that have dropped the COVID-19 mask mandate. 

"I applaud the Alabama schools and universities who have made the decision to end mask mandates,” Gov. Ivey said. “Given the health data we’ve seen in Alabama and across the country, I encourage all schools to continue removing these mandates — we don’t need them in Alabama. As a former teacher, I know well that parents should be in charge of making the best decisions for their kids, not government. That’s why here in Alabama, we don’t have COVID state government mandates — we sued President Biden over his mandates, and we won. I believe in the good people of our state and will always protect their freedoms.”

Ivey had initially signed a mask mandate in July 2020, for everyone in Alabama when in the company of anyone not in their immediate household. She let that statewide mask mandate expire in April 2021.

When schools returned to in-class instruction in August 2020 the Alabama State Department of Education encouraged local school systems to reopen with mask mandates. Some systems voluntarily dropped the mask mandates, while others did so due to parents going to school boards demanding that their children not be masked. Some systems that had dropped the mandates reimposed them as new strains of COVID-19 such as Delta and Omicron caused new COVID peaks.

Many school systems have for extended periods of time utilized virtual learning – with widely varying levels of success. Ivey, after initially shutting down the Alabama economy in March and April of 2020 and imposing that mask mandate two years ago, has increasingly left the decisions to the local school boards.

Some Alabama school children have been either in virtual learning or wearing masks since March 12, 2020.

Several of the Governor’s GOP rivals have criticized Ivey for how she handled this situation,

Greenville businessman Tim James (R) has run a television ad saying that the governor should have issued an executive order to the school systems ordering them not to require that the children wear masks.

“What have we done? Shutdowns & masking have damaged our children,” James said on Twitter. “They've fallen behind, & we're now seeing mental health issues. Governor Ivey could've stopped this by executive order. She refused. Masks are a parents' choice. As Governor, I'll stop forced masking. #fightback”

Lee County pastor, evangelist, private schoolmaster, and GOP gubernatorial candidate Dean Odle has strongly criticized Ivey for her handling of the pandemic and has criticized the mask requirements.

“Kay Ivey applauding school systems for dropping the mask mandates is the latest example of Ivey’s re-election pandering,” Odle said in a statement to 1819 News. “She is the ultimate hypocrite when it comes to the mask mandates. She was the mask-mandate queen who ignored the true science that masks do not work against any influenza-type airborne/aerosolized virus. She pushed mask-wearing far too long and now she applauds schools for doing what she should have made them do long ago.

“True leaders do not blindly follow what’s popular in the media or what is pushed by federal government institutions,” Odle continued. “Kay Ivey brags about 'standing up to Biden,' but she did nothing but follow the corrupt federal government mandates in Alabama. Governor Ivey claims to be a Republican, but she handled the 'pandemic' like a Democrat tyrant.”

Former Ambassador to Slovenia Lindy Blanchard has also campaigned against the mask mandate and said that she would have issued an executive order to stop the school mask mandates if she was governor.

1819 News reached out to GOP gubernatorial candidate Lindy Blanchard and asked her if she would have done what Gov. Ivey did and allowed the local school boards to make their own decisions about masks and whether or not to reopen the schools.

“No, I would do like DeSantis [the Governor of Florida] and not let them require masks and close schools," Blanchard said. "The best place for children in these Democrat-controlled high crime areas is in school.”

Lindy Blanchard, Lew Burdette, Stacy Lee George, Kay Ivey, Tim James, Donald Trent Jones, Dean Odle, Dave Thomas, and Dean Young are all running in the Republican primary on May 24.

The eventual GOP nominee will then face the Alabama Democratic nominee in the general election on Nov. 8.

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