Last Thursday, Gov. Kay Ivey announced the latest iteration of the state’s Safer-at-Home order while repeatedly stressing personal responsibility by the public, business owners/operators, coaches, and spiritual leaders. The updated order loosens more restrictions for the public and allows more businesses, but not all, to move towards pre-pandemic operations — with mandated guidelines and restrictions.
“Today is the next step in what has seemed like a long and difficult process of reopening our economy, while at the same time remaining true to the fact that this is a serious, deadly disease,” Ivey said. She acknowledged that COVID-19 cases “are not as good as we would hope,” particularly in some cities like Montgomery where a spike in cases filled the ICU beds in the local hospitals.
The governor pledged to keep “a strong eye” on hospital capacity in Montgomery and throughout the state, saying she was reserving “the right to reverse course,” if conditions warranted it. Ivey was questioned by a reporter who asked how she could agree to relaxing the Safer-At-Home order with the number of COVID-19 cases rising daily.
“Standing by and letting our businesses collapse while we’ve got hundreds of thousands of folks that are hurting and suffering is not an option,” she answered, referring to the more than 500,000 jobless claims filed in the last two months. “There has to be a balance between people’s health and economic health. You can’t have life without livelihood.”
Dr. Scott Harris, the state’s health officer said, “I don’t think that we’re out of the woods. We certainly have hotspots in part of our state.” He encouraged people who could stay at home, to continue to do so, particularly those who have pre-existing conditions that would make catching the virus potentially deadly.
The governor pointed to a development she called “good news.” Alabama is one of the first four states in the country that is entering into an agreement with Apple and Google that will allow contact tracing via cell phones. She said the app will assist the Alabama Department of Public Health in tracking where a person with the virus has been, making it easier for health officers to identify people who have been exposed.
What’s new immediately
• Entertainment venues (theater, arcades, bowling alleys) can open.
• Athletic activities can resume with practice now and competition can start June 15.
• Educational institutions can open June 1.
• Child care facilities can operate with no limits on the number of children, as long as the state’s requirement regarding adult/child ratio is met.
• Summer camps can open.
What’s not changing
• All retail open (50 percent occupancy).
• All businesses open.
• Restaurants, bars, and breweries open with limited seating and tables at least six feet apart.
• Close-contact service providers (barbers, hair and nail salons, etc.) open.
• Fitness centers and gyms open.
• Beaches open with no limit on gatherings.
• Non-work gatherings allowed with no limit (as long as there is social distancing between persons not from the same household.)
• Medical procedures can continue subject to the guidelines of state’s regulatory boards.
• Senior citizen centers are to remain closed except for meal curbside pick-up or delivery.
• Hospitals and nursing homes must still restrict visitation.
The current Safer At Home order and available resources can be found at www.governor.alabama.gov/ newsroom/covid-19.