MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth said Thursday that he remains opposed to mandatory mask orders despite being diagnosed with COVID-19, even though he encourages people to wear one.
The Republican lieutenant governor announced Wednesday that he tested positive for the coronavirus. He said he sought a test after learning someone in his Sunday school group had COVID-19.
“I have always encouraged mask-wearing, and I wear one in my daily life. Those with underlying health conditions should be especially cautious, even to the point of limiting their time in public. At the same time, I believe in personal responsibility and think everyone has the right to make their own choices regarding their health,” Ainsworth said in a statement.
He added: “One-size-fits-all government mandates, and especially those that do not require legislative approval or oversight of any kind, erode our basic freedoms and liberties.”
Ainsworth has been critical of the state’s COVID-19 response under Republican Gov. Kay Ivey. In March, he criticized what he said at the time was the state’s slow response to prepare for a possible “tsunami of hospital patients.” But he has also been critical of the state’s mandatory mask order. He said last month that “masks should be voluntary, not mandatory.”
The Republican lieutenant governor said he wears a mask when he goes about his daily activities, although social media feeds have shown him posing for photographs without a mask, including one with Republican Senate nominee Tommy Tuberville.
Ainsworth tweeted a picture of himself working on his farm in response to a social media comment implying, after his diagnosis was made public, that he was a step closer to death.
“While I am sure it will disappoint the liberal trolls who wish me dead, I feel great despite my positive test for COVID-19 and am using the quarantine period to catch up on some overdue work around the farm,” Ainsworth wrote.
Numbers show the coronavirus pandemic appears to be worsening again in Alabama after weeks of improvement.
Nearly 175,000 people in Alabama have contracted the virus since the pandemic began and at least 2,805 have died.
The virus has been spreading at a quickened pace since early October, figures show, and around 840 people have been hospitalized a day over the past week, compared to around 750 a day in late September.
Schools across the state continue to juggle schedules and switch to online learning as virus cases increase.
In the Tennessee Valley, students at Rogers High School in Florence will attend class virtually for 10 days after several students and staff members were required to quarantine, news outlets reported. In south Alabama, Opp City Schools canceled in-person classes and extracurricular activities until Oct. 27 because of an increase in COVID-19 cases. One Montgomery public school closed and sixth-graders at another school were placed under quarantine, officials said.
While the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms for most people, it can be deadly for the elderly and people with other health problems.
Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.