Alabama issues statewide stay-home order starting Saturday

Associated Press
Posted 4/3/20

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama officials ordered residents to stay home except for essential trips, work and a few other things starting Saturday, with Gov. Kay Ivey saying Friday that too many people had ignored voluntary limits.

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Alabama issues statewide stay-home order starting Saturday

Posted

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama officials ordered residents to stay home except for essential trips, work and a few other things starting Saturday, with Gov. Kay Ivey saying Friday that too many people had ignored voluntary limits.

The order, released during an afternoon news conference at the Capitol, allows people to leave home to get medicine, health care, food and other essentials. It also allows church services, weddings and funerals as long as long fewer than 10 people are present and they stay at least 6 feet (2 meters) apart.

Anyone can still visit relatives provided social distancing guidelines are followed, and travel for the purpose of caring for other people and pets is allowed. Outdoor exercise also is allowed under the order.

But retailers including grocery stores will be required to operate at half their normal capacity, and anyone who tests positive for the new coronavirus must quarantine at home for two weeks.

Ivey said the order was needed because of a jump in the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, and statistics showed people were not abiding by requests to limit travel and contact, which health officials say is vital to limiting spread of the virus.

"The bottom line is folks are just not paying attention," she said.

Ivey was joined at a news conference by the state health officer, a Bible-quoting preacher and Attorney General Steve Marshall, who said violators could be charged with a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of as much as $500 per offense.

The order takes effect at 5 p.m. Saturday. Ivey had previously taken steps including shutting down schools and restaurants other than for takeout or delivery orders, but the stay-home order went a step further.

Earlier, the city of Mobile joined Birmingham in ordering residents to stay at home during the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed more than 20 people in Alabama.

Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson signed an order requiring residents to remain home in most cases unless they have essential jobs in fields including health care and public safety. He also imposed a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew beginning Saturday in the port city.

"We certainly don't take this likely. It's something that we've been considering for several days, but it's only now that we feel like we've gotten all the information we need to do this and do it in the proper fashion," Stimpson said in a video posted on Twitter.

Birmingham, meanwhile, extended its shelter-in-place order through the end of April, with Mayor Randall Woodfin warning city parks would be closed if residents didn't comply with restrictions to maintain a distance of at least 6 feet (2 meters) between individuals and use public spaces only for exercise.

"Don't go out except for essentials," Woodfin said.

The cities have a combined population estimated at more than 740,000.

Although Ivey had refused to issue a statewide order requiring residents to remain at home, the state previously banned non-work gatherings of 10 or more people, and non-essential businesses including entertainment venues, fitness centers and salons were ordered to close.

Republican governors in Florida, Mississippi and Georgia previously reversed course and issued stay-home directives after resisting statewide orders.

More than 1,400 people have tested positive in Alabama for the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19, and 35 deaths have been reported in the state. Health officials said 21 of those have been confirmed as being linked to the illness.

The virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover.

Dr. Scott Harris, head of the Alabama Department of Public Health, said some hospitals were "really struggling" to treat COVID-19 patients and were looking for additional ventilators.