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Huntsville businesses see increase in traffic as state's mask mandate is set to expire

Doctors warn not to ease up on precautions.

Posted: Mar 9, 2021 9:37 PM
Updated: Mar 9, 2021 10:34 PM

In exactly one month, Gov. Kay Ivey intends on lifting Alabama's mask mandate. However, doctors warn that is still too soon.

"I think we are having success in controlling the virus, but it's too early," Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Ali Hassoun said.

The governor made it clear the mandate will expire Apr. 9. With the announcement, it seems as if more people are starting to feel more comfortable going out and about.

At Melt in Downtown Huntsville, the manager said this past week started to look more like a pre-pandemic crowd. However, businesses are still implementing the mask mandate in place. This boost in business brings a real sense of financial relief.

"People we haven't seen in a year are coming out," Manager Jennifer Hurt said.

Melt has constantly evolved throughout this pandemic to meet the needs and safety of its customers. Hurt said in a month to expect more change as the statewide mask mandate is lifted. She said customers will not be required to wear masks inside.

"The employees will have to still wear their masks, and we will still continue to do all the habits that we've grown into doing since it started," Hurt said.

Down the street, Stella's Elixir Lounge has always had coronavirus precautions in place. The new downtown bar opened amid the pandemic, but they plan to allow customers to choose whether or not to mask up.

Since opening, bartender Christopher Montalvo said business has been steady and he only expects it to pick up from here.

"We've seen a lot more people relaxed and we're counting on that especially as the temperature goes up, for people to be a lot more comfortable," Montalvo said. "So, we're expecting a huge turnout."

However, Dr. Hassoun warns people not to let their guards down. He believes Apr. 9 is too soon to lift the mask mandate. He said cases need to continue to decline and about 60 to 70 percent of people should be vaccinated before lifting a mandate.

"It's really, vaccinate, vaccinate people. If we get to a level of vaccination where we have good immunity level, probably, yes we can think about the mask," he said.

Both businesses are encouraging their employees to get vaccinated but are not requiring it.

According to the University of Alabama at Birmingham, about 8.5 percent of Alabamians are fully vaccinated.

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