Jefferson County, Alabama’s most populous county, and Birmingham, the state’s largest city, today put their respective governments under declarations of emergency because of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Jefferson County commissioners also announced the closure of the downtown Birmingham and Bessemer courthouses to the public until April 6.
“These are perilous times,” said County Commission President Jimmie Stephens. “With the social impact on our citizens and the economic impact going forward, it’s going to be a challenging time. But this commission will work together in a bipartisan manner to make sure it’s done properly.”
Jefferson County has 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19, which is more than half of Alabama’s 22 confirmed cases.
Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said these are unprecedented times for the city and the world and “we are working closely with public health experts to take the most effective steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”
The mayor issued a statement that said, “I am declaring a state of emergency in the City of Birmingham. Based on the information we have received from public health experts, I have determined it is in the best interest of the public and the City of Birmingham to recommend there be no in-person events that consist of 25 people or more in the city.”
The City of Birmingham has established the keyword BHMCOVID to text to 888-777 to receive text messages with information concerning COVID-19.
Jefferson County Commissioner Joe Knight said, “Life as we know it changed. But try not to panic, because 100 percent of us on this earth are going to die; 99.99 percent are not going to die from the coronavirus,” he said. “We have to take steps to stop the spread.”
County officials said “social distancing” and “self-isolation” will go into effect throughout county government to assist health care officials in keeping the potential spread of the virus at a manageable level.
Residents are encouraged to use Jefferson County online services at www.jccal.org.
The Jefferson County Commission voted today to declare an official state of emergency regarding COVID-19/Coronavirus, and voted to close the Courthouse and it annex buildings starting tomorrow. Citizens can still do business online. Read more here: https://t.co/o0bQaB7LvW pic.twitter.com/WfJ8inhDTC
— Jefferson County, AL (@JeffCoToday) March 16, 2020
Jefferson County Manager Tony Petelos said a number of functions will continue to operate while the courthouses are closed.
“Environmental services, IT, payroll … and critical personnel will continue to work,” he said.
Urgent care will continue at Cooper Green Mercy Health Services, but clinics will not see patients unless there is an emergency. The oncology group will continue seeing patients, he said.
Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Alabama Department of Public Health have published guidance on the virus. Visit www.cdc.gov/coronavirus or www.alabamapublichealth.org for more information.
This story originally appeared on The Birmingham Times’ website.