Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said today she has amended the “Safer at Home” orders to allow for restaurants, salons and other businesses, along with churches, to reopen beginning May 11 with new social distancing and other requirements.
Gone are the rules limiting any non-work-related gatherings to 10 people. The focus now is on maintaining the 6 feet of separation in social distancing and encouraging protective masks and hygiene practices.
“I know full well that I sound like a broken record, but, friends, I can’t say this more clearly: The threat of COVID-19 continues to exist,” Ivey said. “It is truly deadly and it must be addressed.”
Restaurants can open dining areas and bars as long as they can maintain 6 feet of separation between tables and seating, have a plan for sanitation of all surfaces and items guests come in contact with, have disposable menus or a plan for cleaning them after each use, and use tape or other means to clearly mark social distance spacing for employees and customers. Other guidelines from the Alabama Department of Health can be viewed here or in the graphic below.
Hair salons, barber shops and other close-contact businesses have a number of additional restrictions and requirements, to include the use of personal protective equipment. They can be viewed here or in the graphic below.
Gyms, fitness centers and other athletic facilities can reopen as long as they maintain social distancing, employ stricter disinfecting criteria and monitor the health of those entering, among other requirements you can read here or in the graphic below.
All businesses must operate within the limits identified in the previous “Safer at Home” order, which includes 50% capacity, screening employees for fever and other symptoms and these additional guidelines.
For churches and houses of worship, the lifting of the limits of crowd sizes allows them to reopen, but State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris reminded the public that the single largest outbreak of COVID-19 in Alabama occurred as part of a church event before social distancing was implemented. The health department released guidelines for resuming worship services, which can be viewed here or in the graphic below.
Ivey said the Alabama Department of Public Health consulted with trade organizations of various businesses to come up with the new guidelines.
Alabama Retail Association President Rick Brown said his members are eager to reopen with the new rules.
“They just want to open and do so safely,” he said. “They’ve been prepared to follow the guidelines to return to work.”
Brown said restaurants are used to dealing with food safety and health practices as a normal part of doing business and the new guidelines should not be a challenge.
“I think they will do a real good job with it,” he said. “I think you will see they have no problem at all.”
Harris said there has not been a decline in the number of cases for the past 14 days, which is one of the guidelines the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had recommended. Harris said the state’s ability to test for the coronavirus has greatly increased and it’s not clear how much of the rise in the daily number of new cases was due to the availability of testing. He said the numbers have been holding fairly stead at around 250 new cases per day for the past week with only one day spiking slightly above 300 cases.
Ivey said not yet allowed to reopen are entertainment venues, concert venues, bowling alleys, movie theaters and the like along with Little League baseball and other sports organizations.
“These are all part of what makes a summer so enjoyable and so special here in Alabama,” Ivey said.
Brown said it’s understandable that those businesses might be the last to reopen but he is hopeful they, too, will be able to do so soon.
Ivey said additional details and guidance could come as soon as the middle of next week, contingent on what happens with the disease in the meantime.
“As we move forward together again, I want to thank to good people of our great state for remaining vigilant. Your efforts are paying off,” she said.
The reopening of the businesses should be followed by the rehiring of workers, Brown said. That will help determine how short-lived the economic slowdown will be, he said.
“I’m hoping for a v-shaped unemployment chart and not a u-shaped one,” he said.