The Alabama National Guard will be deployed to rural areas in the state to administer the COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Kay Ivey announced.
On March 23, two National Guard teams will rotate across 24 counties with the aim of administering at least 8,000 shots a week at mobile locations, Ivey said in a press release Tuesday. The guardsmen will "play a critical role in reaching folks in rural areas of Alabama," she said.
More than 1.1 million doses of the vaccine have been administered in the state, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health, but getting the vaccine to residents in rural areas across the country has proved challenging.
Alabama was among several states that saw record numbers of new cases and hospitalizations at the beginning of the year, which led the state to extend its mask mandate through March 5.
The mask mandate was extended again through April 9, but Ivey stated last week that the requirement will end for good. The number of new positive cases in Alabama has been declining for more than 14 days, according to the state health department.
Ivey reminded Alabamians to be patient as the state continues working with the federal government to get more supplies.
"Folks, we can have hope, because, finally, we can see the end of COVID-19," she said.
On Wednesday, Ivey reopened the state capitol and governor's mansion.
"As more Alabamians voluntarily get vaccinated and our COVID-19 numbers continue in an encouraging direction, it is only proper that our state capitol and governor’s mansion are once again open to the public," Ivey said in a statement. "I appreciate the people of Alabama being patient and abiding by the COVID-19 protocols, however, I’m excited to announce that we can safely welcome folks back for a visit."