By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Bidding to stop the new coronavirus, public health officials in Alabama’s largest county ordered restaurants to switch to take-out service only and ordered child care centers closed and nursing home visits restricted.
Jefferson County Health Officer Mark Wilson announced the orders at a news conference Monday. Seventeen of the 29 confirmed virus cases in Alabama have been detected in Jefferson County, which includes the city of Birmingham.
Wilson said the orders are for: childcare centers, preschools and private school centers with 12 or more students to close from Thursday until April 6; restaurants beginning Tuesday should not have on-site dining for one week but delivery and take-out can continue; the closure of senior citizen center activities; and for nursing homes to restrict visitation except for compassionate situations such as end of life. The order also prohibits public gatherings with more than 25 people.
“I know this has a big impact on our community. It’s quite restrictive,” Wilson said.
“This number seventeen. We are certain that is a major under-representation of what is actually going on in our community.
We believe there are many, many more cases that we have not detected,” Wilson said.
Wilson said the orders can be enforced through court action if needed.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey last week ordered the closure of all public schools until April 6.
The Alabama Department of Public Health on Monday urged people statewide to avoid gatherings of more than 50 people, unless they can maintain a 6-foot distance between others, to limit spread of the new coronavirus.
“I think if we all cooperate, if we all manage to do this then we will have a little bit of time where we are inconvenienced and uncomfortable but I know we will come out OK on the other side,” Harris said.
Hospitals in Montgomery and Tuscaloosa announced the opening of new testing sites.
Harris said there is no reason for a person to seek a test unless they have symptoms.
“I do want to remind Alabamians that you absolutely do have the power to protect yourself and protect your family. The normal social distancing items that we’ve been mentioning for several weeks now are what you can do,” Harris said.
The Alabama Department of Labor said Monday that people who miss work because they are quarantined, laid off or sent home without pay for an extended period because of the coronavirus can apply for unemployment benefits.
East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika announced a hospital employee had tested positive for that virus and was being quarantined at home. The employee had not traveled outside Lee County.
Hospital spokesman John Atkinson said the facility has canceled most elective procedures and is taking “all extra precautions” to stop the virus.
“In addition, we have implemented a plan to perform deep cleaning in all patient care areas,” Atkinson said in a statement.
Ivey on Sunday said state employees should be begin working from home when possible and told department heads to adopt flexible work schedules. Other employees may be placed on paid emergency leave.
Employees should plan to return to regular work schedules on April 6, Ivey said Sunday on Twitter.
For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. 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 from the new virus. People with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover, according to the World Health Organization.