Ivey: Time to further open the state

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

MONTGOMERY – With the current safer-at-home order set to expire on May 22, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey held a press conference on Thursday, May 21, to give an update on the state’s battle with COVID-19 and announced an amendment to the order.

“We cannot sustain a delayed way of life as we search for a vaccine,” Ivey said. “It’s now time that we move forward and further open our state and live with a new normal of incorporating COVID-19 precautions in our routine.”

The most recent update from Ivey two weeks ago allowed more businesses to open, including barbershops, salons and restaurants, taking a big step for the economy.

On Thursday, she announced the next step with her amended order, which made changes to schools, entertainment venues, athletic activities, educational institutions, child day care facilities and summer camps.

The new safer-at-home order with those latest updates will be in effect from May 22 through July 3, at which time Ivey will update activities moving forward.

“Today is the next step in what has seemed like a long and difficult process of reopening our economy,” Ivey said. “We’re expanding the number of businesses allowed to reopen while maintaining a 6-foot distance and by adding an extra layer or two of prevention or precaution on those who own these businesses as well as those who frequent these businesses.”

Two of the biggest announcements from Ivey and State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris were schools being allowed to reopen and athletic activities, including youth and school-related conditioning or practices, can resume.

To read more about athletic activities, click here.

Starting June 1, schools will be allowed to reopen across the state but must comply with proper social distancing and sanitation, and employees should, to their greatest extent, wear a mask or facial covering that covers his or her nostrils and mouth at all times when in regular interaction within 6 feet of a person from a different household.

State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey has been meeting with local superintendents around the state and will continue to do so in the coming days to help draw up a plan for schools to reopen.

Local superintendents will determine when it is safe to do so.

For all schools in Shelby County, it would be the first time doors would be officially open since March 13, which became the last day of in-person instruction for the 2019-20 school year.

More updates on schools will be coming in the next few days from Mackey and Ivey, as well as local school boards as they prepare to reopen.

The amended order will also allow for entertainment venues such as arcades, theaters, bowling alleys, concert venues, public or commercial playgrounds, museums and other similar places to open using proper guidelines, including social distancing, facial coverings for all employees, proper sanitation on a regular basis and the 50-percent occupancy rule.

In addition to those changes, child care facilities are able to open normally again with proper social distancing and sanitation, while all employees should wear a mask covering their nostrils and mouth.

The same guidelines are encouraged for those hosting summer camps as well.

“We’re going to continue putting personal responsibility on every individual citizen,” Ivey said. “Personal responsibility extends to the store owner, the summer camp operator, the hairstylist, the youth sports coach and pastors. It takes all of us adhering to these social distancing guidelines in order to stop the spread of this disease.”

Those were all of the changes in the latest amendment to the order, while everything else is remaining the same, including restrictions on senior centers, nursing homes and hospitals.

Ivey’s announcement came with 13,119 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus statewide with 172,934 tests administered since the first case on March 13.

That’s an increase of 1,077 cases since Monday morning for an average of 359 cases per day.

But for Shelby County, which has seen lower increases in recent weeks, there were only 12 new cases in that span for an average of four per day, while 7,591 have been tested.

Those 12 new cases come with 1,059 tests received by the ADPH in that same time span, meaning 1.1 percent tested in that frame had positive results.

Since the virus started, Shelby County has seen 5.4 percent of those tested test positive, which is a decrease as testing numbers have risen, while 0.19 percent of the county’s population has tested positive with 3.5 percent of the population tested.

Statewide, 7.6 percent of those tested have tested positive, while 0.27 percent of the state’s population has tested positive with 3.5 percent of the population tested.

To view Ivey’s full, amended safer-at-home order click here.