Ivey Loosens Restrictions, Cites Balance Between Health, Economy

Gov. Kay Ivey issues a new order loosening restrictions. Source: Governor’s office.

Gov. Kay Ivey has once again loosened restrictions on Alabama businesses, allowing the reopening of entertainment venues, child care facilities, student activities and educational institutions. Ivey’s “Amended Safer at Home” order, issued Thursday afternoon, will go into effect Friday at 5 p.m.

At a press conference announcing the order, Ivey cited economic stressors, such as a spike in unemployment, as a reason for easing restrictions.

“We cannot sustain a delayed way of life as we search for a vaccine,” she said. “There are many viruses we live with and have worked necessary precautions into our daily lives. And similarly, 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… It’s not realistic to think that we’re going to be able to keep everyone totally isolated from each other forever.”

Under the amended order, entertainment venues — a term that includes bowling alleys, arcades, concert venues, theaters, museums, race tracks, public playgrounds, adult entertainment venues, casinos and bingo halls — will be allowed to reopen, though they are ordered to limit occupancy to 50% of their normal occupancy rate and to enforce social distancing among customers. Employees, but not customers, will be required to wear masks.

Team athletic practices will also be allowed to restart, though competition is restricted until June 15. Players, coaches and officials will be required to wear masks unless directly participating in the athletic activity; players, coaches, officials and spectators are ordered to “refrain from high fives, handshakes, and other physical contact except to the extent necessary.”

All public and private schools, including colleges and universities, can reopen on June 1, though they must also enforce social distancing. Employees — but not students — are required by the order to wear masks. Child day care facilities and summer camps are also reopened by Ivey’s new order, with the same social distancing caveats.

Ivey said that, while the number of COVID-19 cases is still rising statewide, the state had not run out of hospital beds or medical equipment during the pandemic. “Obviously in the state, some are experiencing higher rates than others,” she said. “However, statewide we have not exceeded capacity and everyone who needed a ventilator has been able to receive one.”

Ivey added that “if things start going in the wrong direction, we reserve the right to move back in and reverse course.” The order is currently slated to expire July 3.

When asked by a reporter if the loosening of restrictions contradicted her earlier claims that reopening decisions “will be based on data, not a desired date,” Ivey once again pointed to the economy.

“Standing by and letting our businesses collapse while we’ve got hundreds of thousands of folks that are hurting, suffering is not an option,” she said. “We’ve got to keep our businesses open and keep our people working… Having a life means having a livelihood, too. You can’t have a life without a livelihood.”

“You’ve got to have a balance between looking after the people’s health and the economic health,” she said. “There has to be a balance.”