EMA Joint Information Center press conference

Alabama Department of Public Health's Southeastern District Administrator Corey Kirkland addresses the media as Dothan Deputy Fire Chief Chris Etheredge looks on during a multi-agency COVID-19 press briefing on Friday at the Dothan/Houston County Emergency Management Agency office.

Local officials on Friday urged people to follow new state guidelines as Alabama tries to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.

On Thursday the state ordered the closure of day cares, beaches, and on-site dining at restaurants. Locally, businesses and government agencies are moving to restrict person-to-person contact by doing more activity by phone or online.

Corey Kirkland, Alabama Department of Public Health’s Southeastern District administrator, said the restrictions issued by state Health Officer Scott Harris are intended to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“Please take this serious,” Kirkland said. “We really need the public’s help. Stay home. Remember your cough etiquette, washing hands and social distancing.”

Kirkland said the measures are intended to protect people with compromised immune systems who are more likely to become seriously ill.

If people follow the guidance, “hopefully, by April 6, we will have evidence that it’s OK to start lifting some of these orders,” he said.

Kirkland said there is still a problem with the test supply chain nationwide, but people can call ADPH’s central office in Montgomery at 888-264-2256 for the nearest virus testing site.

Dothan City Manager Kevin Cowper said the city has more than adequate financial reserves to ride out a slowdown in sales tax revenue if business activity begins to slow.

While some businesses are experiencing substantial reductions in activity, grocery stores and others are seeing increases.

“Our budget for this fiscal year relies on about $64 million in sales tax revenue,” Cowper said. The city’s collections last year were $74 million and Dothan is currently running $2.5 million above projections.

“We build into our budgets very conservative revenue projections so that if there is an event like this, we are prepared and able to come in with a soft landing,” Cowper said. “We have permanent reserves built into our budgets for emergency events and we have more than adequate cash-flow reserves.”

The city is planning to limit attendance at city meetings to those who have business with the boards, but people can still view the meetings remotely.

“All of those meetings will continue to be open and broadcast to the public,” he said.

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