BIRMINGHAM — Alabama reported three additional cases of the new coronavirus Friday as another state vehicle factory prepared to shut down and new rules took effect to limit contact between people.
State health officials said Alabama's total number of confirmed cases rose to 81, up from 78 on Thursday. Almost half the cases are around Birmingham in heavily populated Jefferson County.
Only one case has been reported in Mobile County, where more than 400,000 people live, and officials are trying to get more tests.
Mercedes-Benz announced its factory in Tuscaloosa County and another in South Carolina would suspend production beginning Monday. Some 3,800 people work at the German automaker's plant and thousands work for surrounding suppliers.
Honda previously said it would temporarily close its assembly plant in Talladega County, and Hyundai shuttered its factory south of Montgomery after a worker tested positive for the coronavirus.
With more people out of work, utilities including Alabama Power Co., the state's largest supplier of electricity, have announced they would suspend service disconnections for customers who can't pay bills, and Alabama-based Regions Bank said it would waive numerous fees and penalties during the crunch.
The state on Thursday ordered all child day care centers, preschools, schools and senior citizen centers to close, and it prohibited gatherings of 25 people or more, or any event where people can't stay at least 6 feet (2 meters) apart.
Dine-in restaurants and bars also were prohibited with only takeout ordering allowed.
Health officials said the goal of slowing disease transmission is to prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed.
The virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover.