COVID-19 orders extended throughout Alabama

COVID-19 orders extended throughout Alabama
Visitors enjoy the beach in a less-troubled time. Alabama's beaches are closed to the public through April 5, as of 5 p.m. today. State officials announced the decision among new measures to try to restrict the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. (Brittany Faush / Alabama NewsCenter)

Two days after extending Jefferson County’s COVID-19 response to surrounding counties, the state health officer extended those orders throughout Alabama, adding the closing of state beaches.

Alabama Department of Public Health COVID-19 update March 19, 2020 from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Day cares, beaches and on-site dining in restaurants have been prohibited by the state of Alabama as it battles to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Gov. Kay Ivey and the Alabama Department of Public Health today issued these orders through April 5:

  • Gatherings of 25 people or more, or gatherings of any size that cannot maintain a consistent 6-foot distance between people, are prohibited. The department later announced it will clarify on Friday how the restrictions on gathering affect employers.
  • On-premise dining or drinking at any restaurant, bar, brewery or similar establishments is prohibited. Patrons are encouraged to visit their local eateries for take-out or delivery, provided the social distancing protocols are followed.
  • All Gulf Coast beaches and beach access points, privately or publicly owned, are closed effective at 5 p.m. today.
Grocery stores and pharmacies will be allowed to remain open under the new state restrictions. (contributed)
  • All preschools and child care centers with 12 or more children must close effective at the close of school or business today. Exempted from this order are licensed child care centers that provide services exclusively to employees with state and local governments, first responders (including EMS and fire services), law enforcement, hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care facilities (including assisted living), and end-stage renal disease treatment centers.
  • Pharmacies and grocery stores are allowed to remain open.
  • Effective immediately, all hospitals and nursing home/long-term care facilities (including assisted living and specialty care assisted living facilities) must prohibit visitors and non-essential health care personnel, except for certain compassionate care situations such as maternity and end-of-life.
  • All elective dental and medical procedures are delayed, effective immediately.
  • All senior citizen centers must close.

“We plead with Alabamians to take these orders seriously,” said Dr. Scott Harris, the state health officer. “We need the public to buy in and cooperate. Their activities affect other people.”

Monday, Jefferson County Chief Health Officer Dr. Mark E. Wilson issued several orders to limit personal contact, including not allowing on-premise eating of food or drinking of beverages at restaurants, bars and the like. A day later, state officials expanded Wilson’s order to the counties surrounding Jefferson County.

As of today, there are 68 diagnosed cases of coronavirus infection in the state, with 31 of those in Jefferson County. Ten are in Lee County, eight are in Shelby County, five in Elmore County, four in Tuscaloosa County and two in Montgomery County. There is one case each in Limestone, Madison, Walker, St. Clair, Calhoun, Talladega, Chambers and Baldwin counties.

Nationally, there are 11,205 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection.

“We want Alabamians to understand that whether or not you have a test, whether or not the numbers in your state are high or low, there’s no question that we do have transmission going on in the community,” Harris said. “I don’t think people should have a false sense of hope, and I don’t think people should be frightened, either. I think people should understand the situation as it is.”

Harris repeated a common battle cry of health professionals, that the way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is through social distancing, good hygiene, staying home and staying out of public spaces, particularly if one is sick, or if one is going to be around someone who’s sick.

“The testing is going to work itself out at some point; we certainly are hoping that sooner rather than later,” he said. “But, in fact, a single test for a person doesn’t change the advice in most cases. People need to stay home and isolate themselves whether they’ve had a test or not.”

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