Gov. Kay Ivey said Tuesday the state has no plans for a sheltering in place for the entire state to prevent spread of the COVID-19 virus, and emphasized she is in agreement with President Trump to work to get businesses back to work.
However, Dr. Scott Harris, the state health officer, said it might take another couple of weeks to determine when it is best to ease off on measures to prevent the spread of the virus.
Ivey and Harris spoke to reporters that afternoon on a conference call as a means to encourage social distancing. Questions were submitted in advance and no follow up questions were taken.
"We certainly don't have plans for sheltering in place," Ivey said, noting that Alabama is not like other states currently having higher numbers.
"We are not California. We are not New York. We are not even Louisiana," she said.
She constantly stressed her alignment with Trump's position, who over the past day had begun to say that he wanted to relax measures that have shut down businesses to get the economy back to work. He talked in an interview earlier in the afternoon of getting businesses across the nation back open by Easter, about three weeks.
However, Harris said the virus was so new it would "difficult to say how long it would last." He noted China, which first saw the disease in December, is just beginning to recover.
"It could certainly be weeks or months" in terms of how long the virus could spread, adding that officials should know more within the next couple of weeks.
Ivey also noted that small businesses can go to her website for details on applying for Small Business Administration (SBA) aid, as the SBA has approved for Alabama to be a disaster area.
Harris confirmed the number of confirmed Alabama cases at 215 cases (updated later in the day to 242), and said the medium age of victims was 42, with an age range of 1 to 97. About 53 percent are males and 61 percent are white.
During the 40-minute conference call, Harris and Ivey pleaded with Alabamians to continue social distancing, hand washing and covering coughs. Harris also aid again only people who have the proper symptoms should be tested so the healthcare system is not overwhelmed.
Ivey said she has been in contact with legislative leaders but said it is difficult to budget right now, meaning it might be difficult to come up with a statewide stimulus plan.
"Unlike the federal government, we can't print money," she said, also pointing out that the deadline for sending in state income taxes has been delayed as well.
She also appeared to leave it to legislative leaders on what to do with proceeding with the current Regular Session.
Harris said Alabama, like other states, is trying to look for medical supplies, such as ventiltors and masks, anywhere it can. While he said he appreciated volunteers who are making masks, he recommended medical personnel continue to use approved masks. He said the state had received supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile last week and again on Tuesday.
Ivey said she some companies in Alabama had also offered to help in producing medical supplies but warned a changeover cannot be done overnight.
On schools, Ivey said she is continuing to talk with education leaders as far as when to reopen them in the state, only noting she had a meeting with the state superintendent of education later in the week.
Harris, without giving locations or numbers, said a number of hospitals statewide are seeing increasing number of patients with the virus. He said the state has planned for a surge in numbers and in how to expand the number of hospital beds, with the Alabama Department of Emergency Management charged with putting a plan in place when need.
He said statewide hospitals usually have a 75 percent capacity, but indicated the percentage could be larger in some areas. he also said bout 8 percent to 9 percent of those confirmed with the virus in the state are being hospitalized.
Ivey did not criticize efforts of surrounding states, noting Southeastern governors are talking with each other and being supportive.
As for absentee ballots for the coming runoff, she did not encourage legislation to change absentee laws, noting under an emergency the secretary of state can adopt changes. She noted the application has a box saying the applicant is ill or has an infirmity.
"Y'all, I did that just today," she said.
The governor also encouraged Alabamians to give blood, to order take out food to support restaurants and to fill out their Census form. She said she completed her Census form Tuesday online and that it is "not hard at all."