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Alabama tightens public restrictions to slow spread of COVID-19

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State Health Officer Scott Harris speaks Friday at a news conference in Montgomery with Governor Kay Ivey. (contributed)

By Alabama Newscenter Staff

The state of Alabama is implementing tighter restrictions surrounding public gatherings in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Alabama State Health Officer Scott Harris joined Gov. Kay Ivey at a news conference Friday morning to announce the new restrictions. Harris said further social distancing measures are necessary to be implemented on a statewide basis to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“We looked very closely at what other states had done,” Harris said. “We’ve looked closely and tried to decide in what type of environments the transmission of disease would be more likely to occur. Based on the best information we have, we felt like this was the most comprehensive list that we could get to balance between keeping people working, but also making sure we protected everyone and kept them safe.”

Ivey said the state is doing everything it can to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“This pandemic is a global crisis but it is not something that cannot be managed,” Ivey said. “We will use a measured and balanced approach to address this crisis.”

Governor Kay Ivey, state health officer hold COVID-19 news conference from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Friday’s order amends its previous emergency health orders in the following ways:

1. Effective March 28, at 5 p.m., all nonwork-related gatherings of 10 persons or more, or nonwork-related gatherings of any size that cannot maintain a consistent 6-foot distance between persons, are prohibited. Employers shall take all reasonable steps to meet these standards for employees and customers.

2. Effective March 28, at 5 p.m., “nonessential” businesses, venues and activities shall be closed to nonemployees or not take place.

3. Effective March 19, at 5 p.m., all beaches shall be closed. For purposes of this section, the term “beach” means the sandy shoreline area abutting the Gulf of Mexico, whether privately or publicly owned, including beach access points.

4. Effective Friday, March 20, all regular programs at Senior Citizen Centers shall be ended except that Senior Citizen Centers and their partners are urged to assure that their clients continue to receive needed meals via curbside pickup or delivery.

5. Effective today, in-person instruction or classes at all schools, public and private, including but not limited to: elementary, secondary, postsecondary, technical or specialty schools and colleges and universities shall be closed. The order does not prevent any employers from making continued necessary staffing decisions and advising employees to work from home or maintain flexible work schedules. The order also does not apply to daytime special activities programs provided by local boards of education for children, ages 6 through 12 as of March 13, of first responders, licensed healthcare providers and their essential employees, as well as essential employees of state and local governments, law enforcement, hospitals, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, end-stage renal disease treatment centers, pharmacies and grocery stores. In these special activities programs, 12 or more children shall not be allowed in any one room at the same time and operators of these programs are encouraged to use enhanced sanitation practices consistent with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Alabama Department of Public Health.

6. Effective immediately, all hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care facilities (including assisted living and specialty care assisted living facilities) shall prohibit visitation of all visitors, as defined by the facility, and nonessential health care personnel, except for certain compassionate care situations such as maternity and end of life.

7. Effective March 28, at 5 p.m, all dental, medical or surgical procedures shall be postponed until further notice, except for dental, medical or surgical procedures necessary to treat an emergency medical condition, avoid serious harm from an underlying condition or disease, or are a part of a patient’s ongoing and active treatment.

8. Effective March 19, all restaurants, bars, breweries or similar establishments shall not permit on-premises consumption of food or drink. Such establishments may continue to offer food for takeout or delivery provided the social distancing protocols, including maintaining a consistent 6-foot distance between persons, are followed.

The order said nonessential businesses, facilities and venues include:

  • Furniture and home-furnishings stores.
  • Clothing, shoe and clothing-accessory stores.
  • Jewelry, luggage and leather goods stores.
  • Department stores.
  • Sporting goods stores.
  • Book, craft and music stores.
  • Night clubs.
  • Bowling alleys.
  • Arcades.
  • Concert venues.
  • Theaters, auditoriums and performing arts centers.
  • Tourist attractions (including museums and planetariums).
  • Racetracks.
  • Indoor children’s play areas.
  • Adult entertainment venues.
  • Casinos.
  • Bingo halls.
  • Venues operated by social clubs.
  • Fitness centers and commercial gyms.
  • Spas and public or commercial swimming pools.
  • Yoga, barre and spin facilities.
  • Activities on commercial or public playground equipment.
  • Barber shops.
  • Hair salons.
  • Waxing salons.
  • Threading salons.
  • Nail salons and spas.
  • Body-art facilities and tattoo services.
  • Tanning salons.
  • Massage-therapy establishments and massage services.

Harris said this order will remain in effect until 5 p.m. on Friday, April 17, 2020, but said a determination will be made prior to the that date on whether the order should be extended or relaxed.