MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Gov. Kay Ivey, in a news conference with State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, announced Friday morning she is updating her safer-at-home order related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ivey will loosen restrictions on many gatherings and allow more businesses to reopen, but she’s giving a warning.
“The threat of this disease continues to be active and it is deadly," the governor said.
As a result of the update, several changes will go into effect Monday. Those include:
- Non-work gatherings: Removing 10 person limit, which means church services can be held. Still required to maintain 6 feet of distance between person not from same household.
- Restaurants, bars and breweries: May open with limited table seating, 6 feet between tables and subject to additional sanitation rules and guidelines
- Athletic facilities (such as fitness centers and commercial gyms): Athletic facilities may open subject to social-distancing and sanitation rules and guidelines. Specified athletic activities are still not allowed.
- Close-contact service providers: Close-contact service providers (such as barber shops, hair salons, nail salons, tattoo services) may open subject to social-distancing and sanitation rules and guidelines.
- Beaches: Open with no limit on gatherings. Must maintain 6 feet of separation.
Some things will remain the same, however. The governor’s order keeps in place a limit on all retail stores to a 50 percent occupancy rate. Entertainment venues, night clubs, theaters and bowling alleys will remain closed.
Ivey has previously stated she would look at “data, not a date” for reopening. When asked why she made the decision to loosen restrictions further, she essentially said she had to look out for the economy and contends Alabamians have been following the current health order.
“We do believe it’s ok to expand these orders and provide additional opportunity for people to go back to work,” she said.
A week ago, Harris said one reason why Alabama had not reopened was because data had not shown a two-week decline in cases. Currently, that’s still the case, and Harris even confirmed an increase. However, it’s not clear if that is because there is more testing or if there is a spike being seen in the disease.
Harris also said hospitals are containing the illness without difficultly.
Officials say it’s more important than ever for people to maintain social distancing and good hygiene, as well as use of facial coverings since disease transmission is ongoing.
Harris also said it was “more imperative than ever" to do contact tracing and said school nurses are being used toward that effort. He also added that ADPH continues to expand testing and has partnered with community health centers to roll out mobile units.
The state health office says outbreaks will still occur, but he believes Alabama is prepared to respond to them.
Ivey’s amended order will remain in effect until 5 p.m. on May 22.
It has been just over a week since the state’s “Safer-At-Home” order went into effect. It was the first phase of reopening the state after all non-essential businesses were ordered to close on April 4 in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19. Close contact services, athletic facilities and entertainment venues haven’t been allowed to reopen. The order was set to expire May 15.
As of Friday evening, there were 9,375 confirmed cases and 383 people have died from COVID-19 in Alabama. More than 111,000 people have been tested.
Friday morning, Ivey also issued two supplemental states of emergency.
The Eight Supplemental Emergency Proclamation gives protections from liability lawsuits related to the pandemic.
The order protects health care providers from frivolous lawsuits where they took or failed to take action and businesses conducting testing or distributing personal protection equipment (PPE).
While the order is meant to protect, the governor’s office says it does not shield businesses from claims of egregious misconduct.
Ivey’s Ninth Supplemental Emergency Proclamation addresses miscellaneous provisions.
One allows for probate judges to improve their procedures for handling the primary runoff election, set to take place on July 14, by reducing the number of poll workers, if necessary. It would also allow for remote training of poll-workers.
Another provision cuts red tape for electrical cooperatives so they can access emergency loans.
Another amends Ivey’s April 3 proclamation to clarify protections from evictions, which apply only to non-payment.
And the final provision extends the governor’s formal “public health emergency” for 60 days, starting on May 13, something the governor’s office says is routine and separate from the public health orders issued by the State Health Officer.
The Alabama Department of Public Health has a hotline to help find testing sites and hours of operation. Callers will be asked for their zip code to help locate the site nearest to them. The number is 888-264-2256.
ADPH has also created a separate hotline for questions about COVID-19. The toll-free hotline is 800-270-7268. Telephone calls are answered from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. daily. The COVID-19 general information email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.