Montgomery (WTVY)-- MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - “I want to get straight to the point,” Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said as she opened a Friday afternoon news conference. “Effective tomorrow [Saturday] at 5 p.m. I am mandating a stay at home order for the entire state.”
The order came as pressure was building on the resistant governor to follow more than most other states that had already implemented similar orders as the infection and death rate of the COVID-19 pandemic climbs.
“I’ve also tried to find the right balance, something that was measured while not overreacting, but that would look after people’s health while keeping government from choking the life out of business and commerce,” the governor explained of her decision.
She added that over 200 of the state’s health care workers are already infected and will be unable to work in the coming weeks as Alabama’s hospitals prepare for a surge of patients. And she pointed to several nursing home patients having died from the illness, as well.
Ivey said she, along with State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, looked for every option to avoid closing the state, but the decision came to her Thursday that a shelter-in-place was the next step, warning residents “no one is immune from this.”
“Today, I am convinced that our previous efforts to limit social interaction and reduce the chances of spreading this virus have not been enough,” she concluded.
Ivey’s order, which will remain in place through April 30, is an amendment to the state’s previous COVID-19 health orders. All non-work related gatherings of 10 people or more are prohibited and all nonessential businesses must remain closed.
Citizens must stay home except when they need to perform “essential activities” which the order lays out, as seen below.
Occupancy at grocery stores and big box stores is limited to no more than 50 percent of the normal occupancy load as determined by the fire marshal.
To attend religious services, the event must involve fewer than 10 people who maintain a consistent 6-foot distance from each other. Drive-in worship services are permitted but everyone in the vehicle must share the same residence, must stay in the vehicle for the entire service, and must not interact with those in other vehicles.
Anyone leaving their home during this order must continues to take “reasonable steps to maintain six feet of separation from other persons.”
Essential activities the governor’s order recognizes include the following, though there are exceptions or stipulations in some cases.
Those activities can include the need to:
Obtain necessary supplies
Obtain or provide necessary services
Attend religious services
To take care of others
To engage in outdoor activity
To seek shelter
To travel as required by law
To see family members
It should be noted, the order does not conflict with or affect services related to any public education continuity plans approved by the State Superintendent of Education. It also doe not affect plans to distribute, pick up, or receive meals provided to eligible students.
The Alabama Department of Public Health said that, effective immediately, anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 is to be quarantined at home for 14 days from the date of their positive result. They may not leave their home “for any reason other than to seek necessary medical treatment.”
Alabama now joins more than 30 other states in implementing stay at home or shelter in place orders, and Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall warned “it carries the full weight of our law.”
While Marshall said it was his hope that there would be no need to enforce the law criminally, such options are available to law enforcement.
Alabama’s first confirmed case of the illness came on March 13, and on the recommendation of the State Health Officer, Ivey declared a state public health emergency that day.
Exactly three weeks later, there were 1,454 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 21 deaths—a number that will increase after investigation.
Nearly 9,600 people had been tested in the state