MONTGOMERY — Alabama won’t have any new public health restrictions to stop the surging coronavirus, but Gov. Kay Ivey on Tuesday extended the state’s current “safer at home” order and urged residents to heed warnings to wear face coverings and keep their distance.
The state is experiencing a spike in new coronavirus transmissions with more than 2,603 positive cases reported by the Alabama Dept. of Public Health in the last three days.
During a news conference at the State Capitol, Ivey and State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris stressed personal responsibility, rather than government-enforced shut downs, for how the public should approach daily life in the coming months.
“There are many viruses that we live with already and we work the necessary precautions into our daily lives, but let me urge you in the strongest manner I can to incorporate COVID-19 precautions into your daily routine,” Ivey said.
When asked why she would not put new restrictions in place while the seven-day average for new cases in the state is at a high of 980, Ivey said people need to adhere to the guidance currently in place.
“We need to keep social distancing, wearing face masks, personal hygiene, we need to do the basics that we’ve been told by the medical community that we need to do. So let’s just do it,” Ivey said.
The current “safer at home” order allows most establishments to open with limited occupancy in stores and restaurants. Child day care facilities, athletic activities and summer camps are allowed to open subject to social distancing guidelines.
Nursing homes must limit public visitation and non-work gatherings must be limited to 10 people, under the order.
From April 5 to May 5, the state was under a stricter “stay home” order, which closed most small stores and restaurants and limited only “essential” businesses to operate.
Ivey recently expressed regret for singling out certain businesses as essential or non-essential early in the state’s coronavirus response.
Throughout the pandemic, Alabama has seen more than 37,000 positive cases and over 900 deaths from COVID-19. More than a fourth, or 10,715, of those cases were confirmed in the last 14 days.
At least 18,866 — or more than half — of Alabama COVID-19 patients are presumed to have recovered from the disease, according to the APDH database.
Ivey said that if circumstances “continue to head in the wrong direction” she reserves the right to “reverse course.”
Harris explained that the state’s recent percentage of positive tests has been the highest it has been at just under 11%, and hospitals are reporting more inpatients of COVID-19 than ever before.
“Even though we are testing more, we’re finding a greater percentage of people who are positive, and that means we know we have an increase in transmission going on in the community,” Harris said.
Harris implored the public to continue staying at home as much as possible, distancing from each other when out, and always wearing a protective mask in public.
“This is really a time for us to step up and take responsibility for our own behavior,” Harris said. “What you do affects other people, and it can really affect other people in very serious ways.”
The state is deploying two of its most famous athletes to raise awareness about the importance of wearing face coverings in public. Legendary football and basketball athlete Bo Jackson and former NBA MVP Charles Barkley, both former Auburn University stars, filmed a series of public service announcements urging people to “wear it.”
Ivey said she had the authority to issue a statewide order requiring face masks to be worn in public, but said it would be “next to impossible to enforce.”
“You shouldn’t have to order somebody to do what is in your own best interest and that of the folks that you care about, your family, friends and neighbors,” the governor said.
The current order was set to expire Friday, but a new proclamation order from Ivey will extend the order beyond the 120-day limit under Alabama’s administrative code.
State Rep. Dexter Grimsley, D-Abbeville, was also at the press conference on Tuesday to share his personal experience with COVID-19. He said his 58-year old sister, who was a nurse for over 20 years, died from COVID-19.
He said there are still many unknowns when it comes to this virus, but he asked that the people of Alabama to adhere to the advice that has already been given by state health officials.
“We the people of Alabama have a choice, and it's not as a group of people, but as an individual choice that we make today going forward until we can find a way to get out of this battle that we find ourselves in,” Grimsley said.
Greenville Mayor Dexter McLendon also spoke on Tuesday about his personal experience being diagnosed with COVID-19 along with his wife and 90-year old mother.
He said he understands the restrictions have been hard for Alabamians to follow and accept, especially when the college football season is about to begin, but he asked that individuals follow the state’s health advice.
“My mother’s life and my wife’s life is more important, and I love football,” McLendon said.
Tuesday’s press conference was the first that Ivey has had concerning the pandemic in more than a month. When asked if the public could expect her to have more press conferences in the coming weeks she said: “If you want to come, I’d be glad to meet with you.”