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City commissioners declared a state of emergency for the city of Dothan on Tuesday in the face of a rapidly moving coronavirus pandemic.

Mayor Mark Saliba read a proclamation establishing the status during the regular commission meeting, stating that the City Commission “does hereby find that conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property have arisen with said city, caused by the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID- 19), commencing on or about noon on the 17th day of March, 2020.”

The declaration comes at the request of the director of the Emergency Management Agency, Saliba said, noting that state law allows the city to proclaim the existence or threatened existence of a local emergency when the city is “affected or likely to be affected by a public calamity.”

The declaration is preparatory rather than reactive. As of late Tuesday, 39 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, had been identified in Alabama. No cases have been determined in the Dothan-Houston County area.

However, an official declaration of emergency frees up officials with regard to decision-making and deployment of resources and makes certain expenditures eligible for reimbursement from the federal government, said City Manager Kevin Cowper.

The coronavirus pandemic has spread across the globe since it emerged in Wuhan, China, in December. In recent days, Alabama officials have closed schools and urged residents to stay home. Events have been canceled or postponed, and some businesses have altered their hours of operation or established temporary changes to mitigate personal contact. Some restaurants have changed their operations to suspend in-house dining, using drive-thru and takeout options.

“It’s a very, very fluid situation,” Saliba said. “Cities, counties and schools are all on top of it.”

Saliba urged residents to use “a healthy dose of perspective.

“We have been through worse situations before and come out OK,” he said. “In the end, we will do a great job for this community. I am confident of that.”

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