Alabama Governor Kay Ivey extended the state's mask mandate into mid-December Thursday as the nation continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The order was set to expire Sunday, but Ivey said the continued spread of the novel coronavirus in Alabama and nationwide, combined with the arrival of cold and flu season, meant these cautionary measures must continue for the time being.

200,000 Alabamians have contracted COVID since tracking began this spring, and more than 3,000 have died. Earlier this week, the US broke its single-day record for new cases of the novel coronavirus, as just over 100,000 tested positive Tuesday.

Even so, Ivey said she never expected these government orders to carry on this long.

"I must admit when we issued that first state of emergency back in March, most of us had hoped we would not even be having to worry about COVID in November," Ivey said. "Yet here we, are eight months later, and our state, our nation and our world are still grappling with how to keep people safe while at the same time ensuring that those who have jobs can keep on working and those businesses that have been sidelined can get back to work sooner rather than later."

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Ivey extended the order that requires face coverings in public places to December 11th, but added that she does not intend for this mandate to last indefinitely.

"My hopes and plans were we'd be in a position to let our mask order expire by this time, reverting from a mandate to a strong recommendation of personal responsibility. I know you can't go on forever with a government mandate, especially if you don't have buy-in from the public we all serve," Ivey said. "Sooner rather than later it's going to be up to each of us to do the right thing regardless of whether the government is mandating it or not."

Ivey also announced the easing of some COVID-related restrictions for restaurants, retailers, gyms and entertainment venues. Emergency occupancy restrictions will be lifted, and if restaurants, salons and other businesses will use plexiglass dividers or other impermeable partitions, they will be exempt from orders to enforce social distancing guidelines in their buildings.