Gov. Kay Ivey mirrored the sentiments of President Donald Trump during her Tuesday conference call with media across the state, saying there are no immediate plans to adopt a statewide “shelter-in-place” order.
Ivey also said there are no plans to close the state parks. Officials will meet later this week to determine if schools need to remain closed beyond the April 6 date that was earlier given.
When asked directly whether the state should be more focused on stopping the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus or urging businesses to resume normal operations, Ivey said it’s a balance between keeping as many people as possible safe while also keeping the economy going. “The safety and well-being of Alabamians is paramount, but a healthy and vital economy is just as essential to our citizens’ quality of life,” Ivey said.
Dr. Scott Harris of the Alabama Department of Public Health joined the governor on the call. He said it is difficult to predict exactly how long the crisis will continue. “It could be weeks or it could be months,” Harris said. “We’ll see how effective we’ve been at stopping the spread.”
Asked whether he agreed with the president’s push to restart business, Harris said there were so many unknowns but he’s sure Trump has the best information to guide whatever decision is reached nationally.
Depending on how severe the outbreak is, public health officials may recommend community actions to reduce people’s risk of being exposed to COVID-19. These actions can slow the spread and reduce the impact of disease.
Ivey said she’s kept in touch with lawmakers and fellow governors during the quickly evolving situation.
She said it’s hard to do state budgets until officials know what income will be, which won’t happen until the postponed deadline for state tax filing in July.
Unlike the federal government, Ivey said the state can’t print additional money as a mechanism for helping businesses.
Harris clarified that his earlier recommendation of avoiding groups of 25 of more people was not intended to apply to workplaces, although social distancing within companies should be emphasized when possible.
A major coronavirus concern prompting self-isolation has been the threat of new cases overwhelming hospitals.
Harris said the state is working on a plan for dealing with hospitals that reach capacity, possibly including moving patients to other hospitals if needed. They’ve kept a watchful eye on the situation in Italy and New York and conducted surge planning.
“It wouldn’t take a large number of new patients to overwhelm our state’s hospitals,” Harris said.
He said the state only knows how many tests it has administered and has no data from what private companies have done.
Alabama is competing with every other state for materials like face masks and ventilators, Harris said. The state received a couple of shipments from the nation’s stockpile and continues to search for these items.
“We have the same challenges as other states, although Alabama’s shortage is not as acute as some other states,” he said.
Harris encouraged people to call the Alabama COVID-19 hotline at 1-888-264-2256 for information on testing.
Ivey urged citizens to ask themselves whether traveling out of state during a pandemic is necessary and to limit travel if possible. She said visits and inmate transfers have been halted at the state’s prisons.
She opposes no-excuse absentee balloting because of the potential for voter fraud.
Harris said he hopes all Alabamians will take the coronavirus seriously and protect their family and friends, especially those who are in a high-risk category.
Ivey finished the call by encouraging everyone to donate blood to meet the need, support local businesses and participate in the 2020 Census, which can be filled out online.