Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey extended a public health order Tuesday, which allows businesses, entertainment venues and beaches to operate provided they follow social distancing, sanitation and other guidelines, until July 31st.
The order would have expired Friday and comes as new coronavirus cases have risen sharply through June.
“While we are not overwhelmed yet, we should not think that because our summer feels more normal than our spring that we are back to normal,” Ivey said at a press conference Tuesday morning. “The fact is, folks, we are still in the thick of this virus, disease and it is deadly.”
The order in effect allows businesses of all types to be open, but some have to meet limits on how many people may be inside at one time and have to allow people six feet of social distancing space.
As of Tuesday, Alabama had 37,536 confirmed COVID-19 cases, more than a quarter of them coming in the past two weeks. The state had 926 deaths from the disease. Ivey downplayed the notion of mandating wearing face masks in public, as some local governments have done, saying such a mandate statewide would be unenforceable. Ivey stressed personal responsibility in following recommendations set out by public health officials.
Public health leaders recommend individuals practice social distancing by maintaining at least six feet of distance between people who are not members of the same household, wash hand frequently and wear face masks. State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris echoed the need for people to take the disease seriously.
“Each one of us with our own individual behavior has the ability to prevent the spread of this disease,” Harris said.
Harris said the Alabama Department of Public Health will unveil a new color-coded map on its coronavirus dashboard Tuesday. He said it will offer people a quick overview of each county’s status regarding coronavirus infections. It is based on the rate of new coronavirus cases in the previous two weeks.
Ivey has been relatively quiet compared to some governors in publicly discussing the pandemic. Tuesday’s press conference was the first she’s given since May 21, when she announced the order that’s now been extended.
The governor’s office also released a series of public service announcements featuring Alabama celebrities, including Charles Barkley and Bo Jackson, encouraging residents to wear face masks.