Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Tuesday rejected a harsher crackdown on commerce and daily life to fight the novel coronavirus.
Infections now have hit 242 statewide, according to the latest figures from the Alabama Department of Public Health.
But Ivey told reporters on a conference call that she wants to balance the desire to slow the spread of the virus with the need to keep the economy from collapsing.
“Folks, at this point, we have no current plans to do so,” she said. ‘We have seen other states in the country doing that, as well as other countries. But however, y’all, we’re not California. We’re not New York. We aren’t even Louisiana.”
Ivey’s approach differs from governors in some other states who have issued “shelter-in-place” orders. Her remarks come on the same day that the Birmingham City Council voted 9-0 to issue such an order for that city.
Ivey her view could change, but she echoed President Donald Trump’s desire to get American life back to normal as soon as possible. The president on Tuesday set Easter as a goal achieving that.
“My priority is to keep the Alabama economy going as much as possible while we take extraordinary measures to keep everyone healthy and safe,” she said.
Health care experts in Alabama and across the country have been reluctant to say how many restrictions are necessary to blunt the disease or how long those measures need to stay in place.
“At this time, I think the disease is new enough that it’s really difficult to say how long it will last,” Alabama State Health Officer Scott Harris said on the same conference call.
Harris noted that China, where the virus originated in December is just now beginning to return to pre-outbreak normalcy.
“There’s so much unknown right now that it’s just very challenging to say,” he said.
Rendi Murphree, director of the Mobile County Health Department’s Bureau of Disease Surveillance and Environmental Services, said during a briefing on Tuesday that the most important factor is how well people comply with the recommendations on saying around from large crowds, “social distancing” and other measures.
“If we can see a slowing of the spread, then I think that we can continue going, perhaps, without a shutdown,” she said.
Murphree added that it is a “multi-faceted decision” that requires “all viewpoints on the table.” She added that the state’s elected leaders and health officials will be the ones to make that call.
“As far as a shutdown is concerned, these are conversations that are very complex,” she said. “I’m not involved in these conversations.”
Despite holding the line on sheltering in place, Ivey told reporters that it is important for people to following the guidance of health experts. She said it is a good idea to avoid taking trips out of state.
“In the middle of a pandemic, even visiting family members can place you or someone else at risk,” she said.