MONTGOMERY — Alabama’s “safer at home” order that limits the number of people in restaurants and stores was extended until July 31 by Gov. Kay Ivey on Tuesday.
Ivey announced she was extending the state health order that, among other things, limits occupancy in stores and restaurants, limits nursing home visitation, prohibits nonwork gatherings where social distancing can’t be maintained, and requires safety measures at salons and other businesses.
The order, intended to mitigate transmission of the coronavirus, was set to expire at 5 p.m. Friday ahead of the Independence Day weekend.
“We have lost family and friends to this new aggressive virus,” she said. “Several Alabamians have filed for unemployment due to losing their job. The safer at home order was issued so we could get our arms around the situation and keep our schools, businesses and individuals from spreading the virus.”
Due to the increasing numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases across Alabama, Ivey believes the most effective way to combat the virus is to continue to social distance and for individuals who can stay home, stay home.
State case count
As of Tuesday, Alabama had more than 37,500 cases of the new coronavirus, and more than 25% of infections in the last two weeks, according to numbers from the Alabama Department of Public Health.
“We must continue to practice social distances and, for goodness’ sake, wear a mask,” Ivey said.
Ivey did not announce a mandate for wearing masks, although officials in some Alabama cities have implemented mask guidelines. The governor said she thought a statewide mask order would be “next to impossible” to enforce.
State Health Officer Scott Harris said about 130,000 Americans have died as a result of COVID-19. More than 900 of those people were Alabamians.
Harris said the percentage of coronavirus tests coming back positive is at its highest point, at just under 11%.
“Please continue to take this virus seriously,” Harris said. “As we are opening our state, remember this is not the time to let our guard down.”
Harris also reminded Alabamians that the senior citizen population is still considered at a higher-risk level if they contract COVID-19.
“When it comes to COVID-19 and how it affects our citizens ages 65 and older, that age is looking at 1 in 9 chance of not surviving,” Harris said.
Testing sites have increased across the state, and the number of confirmed cases is rising, he said.
“Hospitals are confirming more inpatients being treated,” Harris said. “We have more than 750 inpatients being treated for COVID-19 and more than 300 individuals are waiting on test results.”
Although the hospitals are seeing an increase in cases, hospitals across the state are not overwhelmed with cases at this time, Ivey said.
State Rep. Dexter Grimsley of Abbeville spoke at the governor’s news conference about losing his sister, Lorianne Grimsley Shakespear, to COVID-19 earlier this year.
“We don’t know when a vaccine will be available,” Grimsley said. “We don’t know when better medication will be available to treat the virus. But, we do know this virus is making people sick. We do know this virus is killing people. I encourage the state of Alabama to rely on what we do know.
“It’s not hard to wash your hands. It’s not hard to practice social distancing, and it’s not hard to wear a face mask. Today, I challenge Alabama to look at what we do know and use common sense. Protect yourself and protect others.”
The Alabama Hospital Association, Nursing Home Association and Medical Association of the State of Alabama praised Ivey’s decision to extend the current restrictions.
“The number of hospitalizations is increasing, and the state has now had more than 900 deaths attributed to COVID-19. Things are not getting better. They are getting worse,” the groups said in a news release.