The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) announces a new statewide coronavirus emergency health order effective April 30 at 5 p.m. which relaxes a previous health order regarding individuals, employers, retailers, beaches and medical procedures. The order remains in effect until 5 p.m. on May 15. The order and fact sheets describing the “safer at home” order may be viewed at alabamapublichealth.gov.

Under the new health order, individuals are encouraged to exercise personal responsibility but are not ordered to stay home to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Public places are to take reasonable steps to avoid gatherings of 10 persons or more, maintain six feet of separation between persons, and disinfect frequently used items and surfaces.

All non-work related gatherings of 10 persons or more, or non-work related gatherings of any size that cannot maintain a consistent six-foot distance between persons from different households are prohibited. But “drive-in” gatherings of any size are permitted if the participants adhere to rules that include participants remaining in their vehicles for the entire event, all vehicle occupants must be from the same household, and people are not to come within six feet of participants in other vehicles. Non-work related gatherings include church services, weddings, funeral services, social gatherings, concerts, festivals, sporting and similar events.

Employers are also to maintain six feet of separation between persons as work duties permit, consistent with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Employers are to facilitate remote working arrangements where practicable, minimize employee travel, and otherwise follow guidance from the CDC concerning ways to reduce transmission among employees to maintain healthy business operations, and to maintain a healthy work environment.

All retail stores may open with the following rules:

• Occupancy is limited to no more than 50 percent of normal occupancy as determined by the fire marshal. Staff is to be posted at entrances and exits for enforcement.

• Employees may not knowingly allow customers or patrons to congregate within 6 feet of one another.

• Retailers must comply with sanitation guidelines.

Public and privately-owned Gulf of Mexico beaches are to be opened, but gatherings of 10 persons or more or other gatherings of any size that cannot maintain a consistent six-foot distance between persons, are prohibited.

Effective with the new order, dental, medical or surgical procedures are allowed unless the State Health Officer or his designee determines that performing such procedures would unacceptably reduce access to personal protective equipment or other resources needed to diagnose and treat COVID-19.

State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said, “This gradual reopening helps keep family members safe. Most importantly, we need to protect the most vulnerable people in our society.”

Earlier health orders concerning non-work related gatherings and higher risk businesses in Alabama such as entertainment venues, athletic facilities and close-contact service providers remain in effect. Also unchanged are orders regarding senior citizen centers, educational institutions and child day care facilities, hospitals and similar institutions. Orders pertaining to on-premise consumption of food or drink at restaurants, bars and breweries remain in effect.

Under the order, individuals, especially vulnerable persons, continue to be encouraged to exercise personal responsibility in slowing the spread of COVID-19 by staying home and following good sanitation practices. These include:

• Minimizing travel outside the home, especially if sick;

• Wearing face coverings around people from other households when it is necessary to leave the home;

• Washing hands frequently with soap and water or hand sanitizer, especially after touching frequently used items or surfaces;

• Refraining from touching one’s face;

• Sneezing or coughing into a tissue, or the inside of one’s elbow; and

• Disinfecting frequently used items and surfaces as much as possible.

The people most vulnerable to COVID-19 are elderly individuals (persons over 65 in age) or individuals with serious underlying health conditions, including high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma, and those whose immune system is compromised such as by chemotherapy for cancer and other conditions requiring such therapy.

Any persons who have tested positive for COVID-19 other than the institutionalized are to be quarantined to their residence for 14 days, or other period of time as directed by the state health officer or his designee, after receiving positive test results. Quarantined persons may not leave their residence for any reason other than to seek necessary medical treatment.

Fines for each violation of the health order are up to $500. ADPH encourages the public to keep informed by visiting alabamapublichealth.gov. The ADPH toll-free hotline and e-mail address are as follows:

• COVID-19 General Information - 800-270-7268

Telephone calls are answered from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. daily, and a language line is available for people who do not speak English.

• The COVID-19 General Information Email address - covid19info@adph.state.al.us

In addition, a toll-free phone line provides information about available testing sites and hours of operation statewide at 888-264-2256. No medical advice is provided on this line.

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