MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WALA) – With the novel coronavirus on the rise, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Tuesday announced she was extending her “Safer at Home” order that was set to expire this week.
Ivey made the announcement at the state Capitol. Restrictions that have been in place will remain until 5 p.m. July 31.
“We should not think that because our summer feels more normal than our spring that we’re back to normal,” she said at a news conference. “The fact is folks, we are still in the thick of this virus disease, and it is deadly.”
The governor said a prolonged economic shutdown is “not sustainable,” but she urged Alabamians to practice “social distancing,” good hygiene and a step that has been controversial in some circles – face coverings.
“When you’re in public, for goodness sake, wear a mask,” she said.
Ivey added that she could order residents to wear masks.
“But it would be next to impossible to enforce,” she said. “But you know you shouldn’t have to order someone to do what’s in your best interest.”
The current order, which took effect on May 22, was previously set to expire on Friday, July 3 at 5 p.m.
Alabama state Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris noted that the state has recorded about 10,000 new cases just past 14 days, roughly 28 percent of all cases since the beginning of the pandemic. He added that about 11 percent of coronavirus tests have come back positive. That number also has been rising.
Hospitalizations also have been rising steadily. Currently, there are more than 700 COVID-19 patents in hospitals and 300 more awaiting the results of coronavirus tests. Harris said the state is down to about 275 available intensive care unit beds out of the 1,645 total.
Under the rules of the “Safer at Home” order:
- People are required to maintain at least 6 feet of separation between themselves and others.
- People are encouraged to wear masks in public.
- Workers at certain types of businesses are required to wear masks and take other hygiene measures.
Ivey said that if residents do not take individual action to slow the spread of the virus, the state will be forced to take stricter action.
“If we continue going in the wrong direction, and our hospitals are not able to handle the capacity, then we’re going to reserve the right to come back and reverse course,” she said. “Living with COVID-19 has become our new normal, and we should expect to live with it as long as it takes until the cases start to decline or our medical experts find a vaccine.”
Harris said with uncertainty gripping the nation, this is something residents have in their power to contain.
“Please continue to take this seriously. … We know that there are many people that have not yet gotten the message,” he said.
He added: “This is still a safer at home order that we have issued, and you are safer at home;”
Later Tuesday, Harris said, the Alabama Department of Public Health with roll out color coding system to give people an easy sense of how individual counties are faring. The map will be updated each Friday and will break down like this:
- Red will indicate counties where daily cases have bee rising for 14 days.
- Orange will indicate counties where daily cases have been rising for seven days.
- Yellow will indicate where daily cases have been rising for less than seven days.
- Green will indicate counties where cases have been declining.
Ivey urged residents to take special care with the Fourth of July holiday approaching. She noted that many have tied the current increase to Memorial Day gatherings.
“Well folks, if that’s true, that’s alarming, and we have to do better as we come up on the Fourth of July, Independence Day,” she said.
State Rep. Dexter Grimsley, a Henry County Democrat, joined the governor and shared the story of his sister’s death from the virus.
“COVID-19 is real,” he said. “And since we know that we need to better protect ourselves and others.”
Greenville Mayor Dexter McLendon spoke of his own battle with COVID-19 and said the virus meant he has not been able to see his mother in months. He said he missed her 90th birthday and Mother’s Day.
“Our job is to listen and use some common sense,” he said.
He added: “I can’t believe anybody will not take this serious. I just don’t understand it.”
Story updated with additional comments from Gov. Kay Ivey and others at the news conference.