Restaurants, bars, athletic facilities and close-contact service providers such as nail salons and barber shops will be reopening in Alabama Monday.
Gov. Kay Ivey today amended her Safer-at-Home order and said she hopes to announce more re-openings by the middle of next week. The new order lifts the 10-person cap on non-work gatherings but states that people must maintain six feet between themselves and others from different households. This provision effectively allows churches to reopen, provided they can provide for social distancing. The same holds true for gatherings on Alabama’s beaches.
The new order expires May 22.
“400,000+ unemployment claims have been filed w/ (the state labor department). These are innocent people whose lives have been turned upside down & it’s not their fault. We hear your voices, your frustrations, your fears. Today’s order will hopefully begin providing some hope again,” Ivey said on Twitter this morning.
Much of public life has been shut down in Alabama since April 3. Last week Ivey loosened restrictions to allow stores, businesses and beaches to open. The state’s cases of COVID-19 still are trending upward, with 355 new cases and 26 deaths Thursday alone.
In reaction, to Ivey’s announcement, Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Mark Wilson issued a strong recommendation that people refrain from having gatherings of more than 10 people for at least two weeks after this weekend to see what effect opening up the state more is going to have.
He said COVID-19 is still in the community. “I’m very concerned that we could start to see an increase in disease,” he said.
“Just because you’re allowed to do something it’s not necessarily the right thing or the smart thing to do,” Wilson said during a press conference Friday afternoon.
“We cannot urge enough how careful people need to be,” Harris said. “The virus doesn’t care whether we have this order or that order or this rule or that rule. It’s still the same; it’s still infecting people; there’s still a risk of people getting sick and dying.”
Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, UAB’s Division of Infectious Diseases director, echoed Wilson’s concerns. She said she knew it was a “painful sacrifice” for people who are missing their places of worship, gatherings, jobs and paychecks. “That said, getting our activities back to normal really has to be done with excessive caution,” she said.
She applauded residents for following the keeping the spread of the disease down in Alabama but warned that the state could quickly backslide and risk losing the gains made so far. One big event, such as a picnic or funeral, is all it would take to ramp up community spread of the disease to much higher levels, she said.
“The social distancing, as painful as it’s been, really, I think has had a profound impact. Despite that, we’ve really lost too many people,” Marrazzo said.
As establishments open, social distancing and disinfecting requirements still apply.
Salons and other businesses that require person-to-person contact must follow rules developed by the Board of Cosmetology, Ivey said on Twitter. Gyms also must follow “intense cleaning methods and social distancing.”
The new order still encourages people to stay home and practice social distancing in their everyday lives.
”Our folks – & Dr. Harris’ team – are continuing to work today – & throughout the coming days – to give additional details & guidance. Our goal will be to announce the next phase of our reopening, hopefully by the middle of next week,” Ivey said on Twitter. She was referring to Alabama’s state health officer, Dr. Scott Harris.
Here is a synopsis of changes to the Safer-at-Home order, issued by the governor’s office.
New updates non-work gatherings
Removing 10-person limit. Still required to maintain 6 feet of distance between persons not from same household.
Restaurants, bars and breweries
May open with limited table seating, 6 feet between tables and subject to additional sanitation rules and guidelines.
Athletic facilities (such as fitness centers and commercial gyms)
Athletic facilities may open subject to social-distancing and sanitation rules and guidelines. Specified athletic activities are still not allowed.
Close-contact service providers
Close-contact service providers (such as barber shops, hair salons, nail salons, tattoo services) may open subject to social-distancing and sanitation rules and guidelines.
Open with no limit on gatherings. Must maintain 6 feet of separation.