Photo: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Alabama's Republican Gov. Kay Ivey issued a statewide mask mandate on Wednesday as coronavirus cases continued to soar across the South, saying at a press conference: "We're pleading with the people of Alabama to wear a mask."

Why it matters: Alabama has reported more than 56,000 coronavirus cases and over 1,100 deaths, with more than 2,000 new infections reported on Tuesday. Approximately 30 Alabama hospitals have limited or no ICU beds available, and only about 12% of ICU beds are available statewide, according to state health officer Scott Harris.

The big picture: Many Republican governors have been reticent to issue statewide mask mandates, but the tide has begun to turn as infections have surged across the Sunbelt and hospital systems begin to reach capacity.

  • CDC director Robert Redfield said Tuesday that if everyone in the U.S. wore a mask in public, the coronavirus could be "under control" within four to eight weeks.
  • At least 25 states have now ordered residents to wear face masks in public.

What they're saying: "I still believe this is going to be a difficult order to enforce and I always prefer personal responsibility over a government mandate," Ivey said. "And yet I also know with all my heart that the numbers and the data over the past few weeks are definitely trending in the wrong direction."

Go deeper: The states where face coverings are mandatory

Go deeper

Trump claims COVID "will go away," Biden calls his response disqualifying

President Trump repeated baseless claims at the final presidential debate that the coronavirus "will go away" and that the U.S. is "rounding the turn," while Joe Biden argued that any president that has allowed 220,000 Americans to die on his watch should not be re-elected.

Why it matters: The U.S. is now averaging about 59,000 new coronavirus infections a day, and added another 73,000 cases on Thursday, according to the Covid Tracking Project. The country recorded 1,038 deaths due to the virus Thursday, the highest since late September.

Updated Oct 22, 2020 - World

France becomes 2nd Western European country to top 1M coronavirus cases

French President Emmanuel Macron at the Seine Saint Denis prefecture headquarters in Paris, on Tuesday. Photo: Ludovic Marin/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

France has become the second country in Western Europe to surpass 1 million COVID-19 cases, Johns Hopkins University data shows

The big picture: France had reported 1,000,369 cases and 34,075 deaths from the coronavirus by Thursday morning, per JHU. French President Emmanuel Macron declared a state of health emergency and imposed a curfew on virus hot spots earlier this month. Spain on Wednesday became the first Western European nation to top 1 million cases.

How the coronavirus pandemic could end

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It's still the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, but history, biology and the knowledge gained from our first nine months with COVID-19 point to how the pandemic might end.

The big picture: Pandemics don't last forever. But when they end, it usually isn't because a virus disappears or is eliminated. Instead, they can settle into a population, becoming a constant background presence that occasionally flares up in local outbreaks.