By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey is not ready to issue a shelter-in-place order as other governors have, a spokeswoman said Wednesday, arguing the state has already taken aggressive action to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Republican governors in Florida, Mississippi and Georgia on Wednesday reversed course and issued stay-home directives after previously resisting such a statewide order. But Ivey’s office said Wednesday that the governor is not ready to follow suit.
A spokeswoman for Ivey said the governor has not ruled anything out, but hopes the state will not have to issue a statewide shelter-in-place order.
“The governor’s priority is protecting the health, safety and well-being of all Alabamians, and their well-being also relies on being able to have a job and provide for themselves and their families,” spokeswoman Gina Maiola said. “Many factors surround a statewide shelter-in-place, and Alabama is not at a place where we are ready to make this call.”
Alabama last week announced the closure of non-essential businesses, such as salons, gyms and many retail stores and a prohibition of gatherings of 10 people or more that are not work-related where people can’t stay at least 6 feet (2 meters) apart. The previous limit had been 25. The state had earlier announced the closure of public and private beaches, on-site restaurant dining and that students would finish the school year by doing distance learning at home.
Alabama’s “safer at home” policy urges people to stay home but does not order them to do so.
The stay-home directives vary from state to state. The Mississippi order that was announced Wednesday includes some measures Alabama had taken, but also includes a directive for people to remain home unless going out for essential activities. Alabama has not done that.
Alabama on Wednesday reached more than 1,100 cases of the coronavirus.
The Alabama Department of Public Health said that 28 deaths have been reported in COVID-19 patients, and the state has so far confirmed that 17 of those were caused by the respiratory illness.
“We passed a not-welcome milestone today. We are now over a thousand cases with deaths in the mid-20s,” Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham said during a press briefing.
Marrazzo said the hospital is caring for about 50 patients who have tested positive for COVID-19, and about one-third are in intensive care and requiring ventilatory support.
Marrazzo said she believed the city had done a good job at social distancing measures but it was too soon to tell if it had flattened the curve of the outbreak.
Alabama nursing homes this week expressed alarm that they may be forced to take back still-ill residents who were hospitalized for the virus.
The Alabama Nursing Home Association released a statement responding to a letter from the Jefferson County Health Officer Mark Wilson saying that the patients can be released back to nursing homes under certain conditions. The letter cited concerns about the need to preserve hospital bed capacity as infections spread.
“For the past month, Alabama nursing homes have been doing everything they can to prevent COVID-19 from entering their buildings,” the Nursing Home Association said in a statement. The group said nursing homes should not be forced “to accept patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 even though they still exhibit symptoms and have not fully recovered.”
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks, and the overwhelming majority of people recover. But severe cases can need respirators to survive, and with infections spreading exponentially, hospitals across the country are either bracing for a coming wave of patients, or already struggling to keep up.