COVID-19

This a running update compiled by the Dothan Eagle concerning news and advisories related to the coronavirus locally, nationally and worldwide.

Update: Tuesday, March 17, 6:10 p.m.

MONTGOMERY — Alabama on Tuesday ordered the closure of day care and senior centers in six counties near the center of the the state's coronavirus outbreak and told restaurants in those counties to end on-site dining for the next week.

The order from the Alabama Department of Public Health applies to Jefferson County, which has the highest number of cases, and the surrounding counties of Tuscaloosa, Walker, Blount, St. Clair and Shelby. Alabama has 39 confirmed cases of coronavirus, 21 of them in Jefferson County, which includes the city of Birmingham.

Private schools, day care centers and preschools serving more than 12 students in those six counties should close from Wednesday until April 6, the state said. Restaurants in those counties can offer take-out and delivery but not on-site dining for the next week.

The state also ordered nursing homes to limit visitation in those counties except for extraordinary situations such as when a person is dying. State health officials said gatherings of 25 or more people are prohibited in the six counties where a 6-foot (1.8-meter) distance cannot be maintained.

The directive marks a significant increase in the number of closures ordered by the state.

“We have not taken these decisions lightly," State Health Officer Scott Harris said. “It's time for Alabamians to hunker down, to isolate themselves, to stay away from other people. It is time to stay out of the public as much as you can.”

Update: Tuesday, March 17, 5:45 p.m.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall has issued an opinion that the March 31 primary runoff election can be postponed.

In a response to Secretary of State John Merrill’s request for an opinion, Marshall determined that the Secretary of State can indeed certify results of a primary runoff that has been postponed and rescheduled by Gov. Kay Ivey pursuant to the Alabama Emergency Management Act of 1955.

On March 13, Ivey declared a public health emergency for the state due to the presence of the coronavirus illness COVID-19. Marshall’s opinion noted that a declared state of emergency gives the governor substantial powers to protect public health during the emergency. Should Ivey exert her emergency authority to postpone the primary runoff election, any other contrary date would be suspended under the state’s emergency management act.

Marshall also agreed with Merrill’s position that the primary runoff should not be postponed beyond July 14, 2020, to avoid interference with November’s general election unless the emergency persists.

Update: Tuesday, March 17, 5:25 p.m.

The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) has announced how it will conduct operations during a national effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease COVID-19.

>> Restrooms will remain open at ALDOT rest areas across the state. A deep cleaning will be performed on the restrooms each week. Throughout each day, staff will clean and sanitize the areas used most frequently by travelers, including door handles, counters, faucets and toilets. Rest areas will be staffed to provide cleaning and with a point of contact for emergencies only.

>> Active construction and road maintenance projects and supporting ALDOT functions will continue, including scheduled bid openings for new projects. Work to repair slides and other roadway failures resulting from the recent record rainfall will continue.

>> ALDOT personnel will continue to monitor and respond to traffic incidents and roadway issues. ALDOT traffic operations and Alabama Service & Assistance Patrol (ASAP) responders will continue serving in areas where they currently operate.

>> All ALDOT public involvement meetings are postponed until further notice.

>> Local ALDOT offices will continue to receive and process permits for work on ALDOT right of way. The ALDOT Oversize/Overweight Permit Office will continue to accept and process applications for oversize/overweight vehicles on Alabama highways.

Due to ongoing changes in daily routines because of the current COVID-19 pandemic, Johns Chapel AME Church in Enterprise has canceled a Saturday event inviting the public to dine with Pastor Willie White Jr. and members of the congregation.

The monthly free meal and free clothing event will not be held this month.

The church’s Sons of Allen Men's Ministry will host a Men’s Prayer Meeting on Monday, March 23, at 6 p.m. via conference call rather than in person due to the COVID-19 outbreak. All men of the community and surrounding areas are invited to join them. Dial-in info: 605-313-5111 Access Code 737936#.

For more information, contact Roland Allen, SOA president, at 334-494-0790; Marge Simmons, director of public relations at 334-477-1962; or Pastor Willie White Jr. at 334-701-5853.

Update: Tuesday, March 17, 4:36 p.m.

Dothan’s AMC Theatres will close for up to 12 weeks, effective Tuesday, March 17. All 630 AMC locations in the country will close for at least six to 12 weeks, in compliance with local, state and federal directives, and as a precaution to help ensure the health and safety of our guests and theatre staff.

AMC Stubs A-List memberships will be paused automatically during the time AMC Theatres are closed.

For home entertainment, please consider #AMCTheatresOnDemand, featuring over 3,500 movie titles. “We will continue to monitor this situation very closely and look forward to the day we can again delight moviegoers nationwide by reopening AMC movie theatres,” the company posted on its Facebook page.

The City of Dothan Public Works Department will continue to provide normal operations and hours for garbage, trash and recycling pick-up during the COVID-19 outbreak. Street and traffic signal maintenance will also continue to be handled in a timely manner. Any questions, concerns and issues can be directed to each division at the numbers listed below:

>> Environmental (garbage, trash, recycling), 334-615-3822

>> Street (potholes, damaged sidewalks/curbs/storm drainage), 334-615-3810

>> Traffic (signs, traffic signals), 334-615-4474

>> All other Public Works concerns, 334-615-4402

City officials are actively monitoring the changing situation around COVID-19, and city staff is meeting regularly to ensure that the city continues to meet customers’ needs.

The Enterprise City Council meeting is still on for Tuesday night, but Mayor William E. Cooper said he and city officials are urging people to make the decision whether to attend based on the federal and state health safety recommendations.

The council agenda has been reduced to the most important business. Cooper asked that anyone who does not have a pressing issue not attend the meeting and those who do are asked to practice social distancing and not sit closely together.

An alternative to attending the meeting is to watch it live on the City of Enterprise YouTube Channel. The livestream will be turned on about five minutes until 6 p.m. and should be easily viewable at the top of the page.

At this time, the Enterprise Municipal Court has been canceled through April 16.

All city sports have been canceled through April 4, and other programs such as senior aerobics, Weight Watchers and the Friday night dance class have also been temporarily suspended.

The city parks have not been closed but people who utilize the facilities are asked to practice social distancing and other safety precautions.

Easter at the Farmers Market, scheduled for April 4, has been canceled.

The Enterprise Senior Citizens Center has been shut down until further notice. Center patrons are able to pick up meals from 11:30 a.m. until noon at the center. Homebound meals are being delivered as regularly scheduled.

All other city events are on hold and will be considered again as COVID-19 information develops.

Ridgecrest Baptist Church is suspending all church-related activities until further notice. The Ridgecrest Fitness Center will also close until further notice. Ridgecrest will broadcast a live online worship service Sundays at 10 a.m., which can be viewed on Facebook Live or the church website at rbcdothan.churchonline.org.

A statement from Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi of the Archdiocese of Mobile, which comprises the Catholic churches and ministries in the southern half of Alabama including the Wiregrass, outlined steps to be taken starting Wednesday, March 18, throughout the Archdiocese during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

The measures are effective through Sunday, April 5, but may be extended depending upon future developments, according to the statement.

>> Emergency Assistance Ministries at Catholic Social Service Centers will remain open providing food for families and individuals, clothing, and help with rent and utility bills. However, applications for this help will be received only by phone. Food and clothing will be distributed at the door and not within the Service Center.

>> All thrift stores will close but clothing will be available for those in need through Emergency Assistance.

>> Counseling for individuals and families will continue to be available but only by phone.

>> Parishes may continue to provide food whether from food pantries or kitchens, but only on a take-out basis and not within a building. Other than take-out food, all other parish and school activities and meetings are canceled.

This includes all worship services. No member of the laity or clergy may conduct a worship service or a devotion of any kind in a church, or other location, according to the statement. The archbishop requested that churches remain open for prayer but without services.

>> Funerals, with or without Mass, will not be celebrated in churches or in any other location. Only graveside services are permitted.

>> Weddings, only without Mass, may be conducted in a church building but solely with a cleric, bride and groom, two witnesses, and parents of the bride and groom present. No one else may be present.

>> Confessions may continue but only with a screen separating the priest and penitent or in an arrangement with 6 feet of space between the priest and the penitent.

>> Baptisms may be celebrated but only with the parents, godparents and one cleric present.

>> Holy Water fonts are to be emptied and cleaned.

The City of Dothan Planning and Development Office will limit access to its offices located at the Dothan Civic Center effective Tuesday, March 17.

The city issued guidelines for customers who need to do business with the city.

For Planning:

Customers are encouraged to complete and submit the appropriate application by email to kvann@dothan.org. Call the office at 334-615-4410 for information on which application to complete. Applications or plans, if required, may be submitted via drop-box directly in front of the Planning office in Room 305 of the Dothan Civic Center. Staff will notify you via your preferred contact method if additional information is needed or to advise you of the next step.

For Permits and Inspections:

Customers are encouraged to complete and submit permit applications by email to permits@dothan.org. Call 334-615-4450 for information on which application to complete. Applications or plans, if required, may be submitted via drop-box in the third floor lobby of the Dothan Civic Center. Staff will notify you via your preferred contact method if additional information is needed or to advise you of the next step.

Inspection requests may be made by phone at 334-615-4450 or email to permits@dothan.org. Please provide the address, permit number, your name, a contact number, and the type of inspection requested. Staff will confirm the request has been received and notify you of the scheduled date.

For Commercial Utilities:

Commercial utility customers are encouraged to complete and submit an application for service by email to permits@dothan.org. Applications may also be submitted via drop-box in the third floor lobby of the Dothan Civic Center. Staff will notify you via your preferred contact method if additional information is needed or to advise you of the next step. Please call 334-615-4450 with any questions related to commercial utilities.

For Business Licensing:

New businesses are encouraged to complete and submit a business license application by email to businesslicense@dothan.org. Applications may also be completed and submitted via drop-box in the third floor lobby of the Dothan Civic Center. Staff will notify you via your preferred contact method if additional information is needed or to advise you of the next step.

Businesses with existing licenses have the ability to renew their licenses online directly through the city’s website. Licenses may also be renewed by phone by calling 334-615-3166.

The Alabama Department of Labor will close the state’s 51 career centers to the public beginning Wednesday, March 18, in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. This closure will be in effect until further notice.

Alabamians in need of career center services will still be able to receive them via telephone calls with their local staff, or through email correspondence.

Additionally, job search services and many other resources are available for self-service at www.joblink.alabama.gov, Alabama’s free online jobs database.

A press release from the department noted that career centers are not unemployment offices as there there are no unemployment offices in Alabama. The only ways to file an unemployment compensation claim are by calling 1-866-234-5382 or by visiting www.labor.alabama.gov. Online filing is strongly encouraged.

A listing of all career centers and their contact information is available at www.labor.alabama.gov or at www.joblink.alabama.gov/ada/r/contact.

Update: Tuesday, March 17, 12:35 p.m

All events set to be held at the Dothan Opera House and Dothan Civic Center through May 10 will be rescheduled, according to Dothan Performing Arts Director Marshall Perry.

Some of those events include the Miss, Teen Miss and Little Miss Dothan pageants set for April 4 and The War and Treaty concert on May 1 – both at the Dothan Opera House – as well as the Zach Williams concert for April 9 at the Dothan Civic Center. Previously, a Gene Watson concert at the Opera House and the “Price if Right Live” at the Civic Center had been rescheduled for July.

Visit www.dothanciviccenter.org for a full listing of future shows.

The Ozark Dale County Library will close effective March 18 at 3 p.m. until April 2. The library remains open today until 7 p.m., and will be open on Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

- All regularly scheduled events, classes and programs are canceled.

- Any patron needing computer access to complete the 2020 Census only, can contact the library at 334-774-5480 to make an appointment with a staff member. This service is available Monday-Friday between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m.

The library’s Wi-Fi network, ODCL Guest, reaches outside the library and will be available for use during this time.

Update: Tuesday, March 17, 11:45 p.m.

The City of Dothan proclaimed a state of local emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak during its Tuesday meeting.

A proclamation, read during the meeting by Dothan Mayor Mark Saliba, states that the emergency declaration was at the request of the director of the Emergency Management Agency and that the Dothan 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.”

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 proclamation reads.

The Dothan City Commission also removed requests of travel by city employees from Tuesday’s agenda.

Update: Tuesday, March 17, 11:44 a.m.

DeFuniak Springs, Florida, City Council members voted Monday night to declare a local state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak and to implement local measures to further enhance the safety of citizens during the outbreak.

City leaders voted to:

>> Limit travel of city workers outside of the county unless deemed absolutely necessary by the city mayor or manager;

>> Cancel all permits for outdoor events until further notice;

>> Suspend renting all city facilities until declared otherwise;

>> Cancel the Monday, March 23, City Council meeting;

>> Suspend all volunteer city board and committee meetings until May 1.

The City of DeFuniak Springs will continue to update this information and provide further announcements on its website at www.defuniaksprings.net, and on its City of DeFuniak Springs Facebook page.

Update: Tuesday, March 17, 10:45 a.m

MONTGOMERY - There are now 36 confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Alabama, with Jefferson County reporting 20, the Alabama Department of Public Health announced Tuesday morning.

No confirmed cases have been reported in the Wiregrass area.

In addition to Jefferson County, here are the counties with positive tests: Baldwin (1), Elmore (2), Lee (1), Limestone (1), Madison (1), Montgomery (2), Shelby (4), St. Clair (1), Tuscaloosa (3).

Health officials are urging residents to follow safety guidelines, including frequently washing hands, staying away from anyone who is sick, do not meet in large groups, and social distancing of at least six feet in public, to reduce the possible risk of getting the virus. 

Update: Tuesday, March 17, 10:15 a.m

Piney Woods Arts Festival has been canceled due to recommendations for people to avoid large gatherings. The festival was planned for April 4-5 in Enterprise.

The Alabama ABC Board will close some of its stores starting at the end of business today, March 17, while keeping others open around the state.

In the Wiregrass, stores scheduled to close include those in Geneva, Headland, Clayton, Daleville and two in Dothan. The Dothan ABC store at 655 N. Oates St. will remain open as will stores in Enterprise, Troy, Eufaula and Ozark.

All ABC stores that remain open will only operate during the hours of 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. with the exception of wholesale-only stores, whose hours will remain the same.

Other operational changes specifically for patron and employee safety:

>> Beginning Wednesday, March, 18, all stores will operate as “over the counter” stores in order to keep as much distance between patrons and store personnel as possible. In an effort to reduce exposure, no more than five customers will be allowed in a store at any given time.

>> Customers will not be allowed to pull their own product. Store personnel will ask customers for their order, retrieve the product(s), and bring the item(s) to the counter for check out.

>> Customers are asked to pay for their purchase with a credit card, if possible. If cash must be used, customers should place the requested amount on the counter and store personnel will return their change in the same manner.

>> Employees will be required to wear gloves. Masks are optional, at this time.

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is extending all Florida driver licenses and identification cards that will expire in the next 30 days.

An emergency order issued by Executive Director Terry L. Rhode extends all driver licenses, commercial driver licenses and identification cards that will expire between March 16, 2020, and April 15, 2020, for 30 days from the current expiration date. It also waives the delinquent renewal fees during the extension period for these driver licenses and identification cards.

Florida law enforcement agencies have received notification of these extensions.

For more information, visit https://www.flhsmv.gov, follow the department on Twitter @FLHSMV, or find them on Facebook and Instagram.

The Hardee's Pro Classic Tennis Tournament held in Dothan has been canceled for April. It may be rescheduled later in the year, but it is unclear as to when or if that is possible.

The Eufaula Community Center will be closed effective March 19 and will potentially reopen April 6.

The G.R.E.AT. Graduation planned for sixth and eighth-graders at Headland Middle School on March 31 has been canceled due to the closing of all schools until April 6. The ceremony for the program, which stands of Gang Resistance Education and Training, will be rescheduled by the Headland Police Department and the school. Also, the Drunk Buster Goggle classes scheduled for Wednesday, March 18, and Thursday, March 19, at Headland High School have been canceled and will be rescheduled.

Update: Tuesday, March 17, 9:55 a.m.

Dollar General stores across the nation will limit the first hour of business each day to senior citizens to lessen their potential exposure to the coronavirus, company officials said Tuesday.

The stores will also roll closing times back one hour to allow workers more time to restock and clean.

The changes take effect today.

Update: Tuesday, March 17, 9:05 a.m.

MONTGOMERY — Bidding to stop the new coronavirus, public health officials in Alabama's largest county ordered restaurants to switch to take-out service only and ordered child care centers closed and nursing home visits restricted.

Jefferson County Health Officer Mark Wilson announced the orders Monday. Seventeen of the 29 confirmed virus cases in Alabama have been detected in Jefferson County, which includes the city of Birmingham.

Wilson said the orders are for: childcare centers, preschools and private school centers with 12 or more students to close from Thursday until April 6; restaurants beginning Tuesday should not have on-site dining for one week but delivery and take-out can continue; the closure of senior citizen center activities; and for nursing homes to restrict visitation except for compassionate situations such as end of life. The order also prohibits public gatherings with more than 25 people.

Wilson said the orders can be enforced through court action if needed.

Hospitals in Montgomery and Tuscaloosa announced the opening of new testing sites.

The Alabama Department of Labor said Monday that people who miss work because they are quarantined, laid off or sent home without pay for an extended period because of the coronavirus can apply for unemployment benefits.

East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika announced a hospital employee had tested positive for that virus and was being quarantined at home. The employee had not traveled outside Lee County.

In addition to Jefferson (17) and Lee (1) counties, the ADPH website on Monday night noted confirmed cases in the following counties, Baldwin (1), Elmore (1), Limestone (1), Montgomery (2), Shelby (3) and Tuscaloosa (3).

From The Associated Press

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