MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Friday said the state was ordering the closure of certain businesses, such as some retail stores, gyms and entertainment venues as the state tries to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
"I cannot stress to you enough the fact that we must be serious about eliminating the spread of this deadly virus. Folks this is real. It is very real," Ivey said.
The list of businesses being directed to shut down in the new statewide health order fall into four categories: entertainment venues; athletic facilities and activities; non-essential "close-contact" service establishments and non-essential retail stores. State officials said it would include places such as gyms, barber shops, theaters, casinos, some retail stores and nail salons. It does not include businesses such as manufacturing facilities, grocery stores and restaurants that offer take-out.
Alabama's death toll from the new coronavirus pandemic has risen to three as officials announced the new steps to limit the spread of the disease in the state.
The Alabama Department of Public Health is reporting that one person each has died in Lauderdale and Madison counties. That's in addition to a previously reported death in Jackson County. Health officials are investigating as many as eight other deaths that could be related to the virus.
At least 538 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the state through limited testing. Wide swaths of west and south Alabama, mostly rural areas, are not reporting any cases.
State Health Officer Scott Harris said at least 10% of the known patients have hospitalized. He said half of the hospitalized patients are in intensive care and a third are on mechanical ventilation.
Citing economic concerns, Ivey said she would not issue a directive for people to stay at home like 21 other states have done.
"I do not believe our economy needs a full shelter in place order as some other states have done," Ivey said. She said that it is best for people should stay at home if they have that option.
Ivey has already shut down schools for the rest of the academic year saying students would finish the year by taking lessons at home.
All restaurants already have been ordered to end on-site dining, all beaches are closed, and the state has prohibited non-work gatherings of more than 25 people where people can't stay at least 6 feet (2 meters) apart.
Some cities have gone further. Tuscaloosa and Birmingham have ordered people to stay at home unless going out for food, medicine or work at essential businesses.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.