Jefferson County tightens restrictions, orders closings in battle against COVID-19

Jefferson County tightens restrictions, orders closings in battle against COVID-19
Dining inside a restaurant won't be an option in Jefferson County until at least April 6, the county health officer has ordered. (Phil Free/Alabama NewsCenter)

Invoking visions of war, Jefferson County’s chief medical officer issued orders even more stringent than the ones he put in place just three days ago, ordering all nonessential businesses and services to close and making gatherings of more than 10 people illegal.

“Jefferson County, the State of Alabama and the United States as a whole has not been called upon to wrestle with a problem of this magnitude since World War II,” Dr. Mark E. Wilson said. “In that dangerous and uncertain time, the Greatest Generation banded together to work toward a common goal. And that is precisely what we must do now.

Dr. Mark E. Wilson and interpreter Kris W. Courson announce Jefferson County’s stringent new rules to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. (Solomon Crenshaw Jr./Alabama NewsCenter)

“Our enemy is one that we cannot see with our naked eyes, but we can clearly see the devastation that this virus has left in its wake around the world,” he said. “Now is the time to do our part to work together and to overcome this threat.”

Wilson said his heart breaks for the people of Jefferson County and for people across Alabama.

“I understand that what I’m asking for is one of the greatest sacrifices we’ve ever had to make as a community, and I understand that these orders impact people’s lives in untold ways,” he said. “I wholeheartedly believe that some suffering now will prevent untold pain and suffering in the months to come if we do not take these extraordinary steps.”

Wilson’s order shares many provisions with a statewide order issued earlier today, but it is much more restrictive on the size of gatherings and the scope of business closings.

Wilson’s order calls for:

  • All nonessential businesses and services are to close effective Friday, March 20, at 5 p.m.

Nonessential services include: Entertainment, including night clubs, bowling centers, arcades, racetracks, indoor children’s play places, pool halls, adult gaming and entertainment venues; recreation facilities, including gyms and fitness centers, swimming pools and spas, excluding licensed physical therapy services.

Other nonessential services include nail salons and spas, casinos, concert venues and auditoriums, theaters, tourist attractions (including museums, planetariums and parades), body art facilities and tattoo services, tanning salons, massage parlors, waxing salons/threading salons, galleries, performing arts centers/events/rehearsals, social clubs, fraternity and sorority meetings and events such as proms and formals.

  • Effective immediately, all gatherings of 10 people or more, or gatherings of any size that cannot maintain a consistent 6-foot distance between people, are prohibited. Requests for an exemption must be submitted at least two weeks in advance of any scheduled event.
  • It’s important to maintain meal delivery with senior centers and restaurant dining rooms closed. (Phil Free/Alabama NewsCenter)

    All senior citizen centers must be closed to gatherings. Senior centers and their partners are urged to assure that their clients continue to receive needed meals via curbside pickup or delivery.

  • Effective immediately, all schools, preschools and childcare centers with 12 or more children are to remain closed until April 6.

Exceptions are allowed for employer-operated childcare centers for the exclusive benefit of essential employees on the premises of state and local governments, first responders (including EMS and fire services), law enforcement, hospitals, nursing home/long-term care facilities (including assisted living and specialty care assisted living facilities), end-stage renal disease treatment clinics, pharmacies, groceries and financial institutions.

This shall also not apply to licensed childcare centers that contract to provide services exclusively to the above-named employers, provided those childcare centers are able to maintain a consistent 6-foot distance between children.

  • Visits to all hospitals and nursing home/long-term care facilities (including assisted living facilities) are prohibited for all visitors and non-essential health care personnel, except for situations such as end-of-life.
  • Effective immediately, all elective dental and medical procedures must be delayed until April 6.
  • Effective immediately, any restaurant, bar, brewery or similar establishment must prohibit on-premises consumption of food or drink until April 6.

Such establishments may continue to offer food for take-out or delivery, provided the social distancing protocols, including maintaining a consistent 6-foot distance between people, are followed, and measures are taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on food containers and other items transferred between food servers and customers.

Such establishments are strongly encouraged to offer online ordering and curbside pick-up of food. Hospital food service areas are excluded from the order, provided they have their own social distancing plan.

  • The organizer or sponsor of a suspended event may submit a request for an exemption from the order at the discretion of the county health officer. The health officer will consider whether effective measures have been taken to identify those attending the event who may potentially be infected with COVID-19. He also will consider whether effective measures have been taken to prevent the spread of infection, including providing facemasks and personal sanitation measures.

Before April 6, a determination will be made whether to extend the closures.

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