Sewell updates public on efforts to fight virus

Published 11:54 am Wednesday, March 18, 2020

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U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-AL, hosted a press conference Tuesday in downtown Montgomery alongside Alabama Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Brian Hastings and Alabama Health Officer Dr. Scoot Harris to update Alabamians on state and federal action being taken to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the state.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) was reporting36 cases of the disease – one case each was reported in Baldwin, Lee, Limestone, Madison and St. Clair counties, two cases each were reported in Elmore and Montgomery counties, three in Tuscaloosa County, four in Shelby County and 20 in Jefferson County.

The growing number of cases in Jefferson County prompted Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey Tuesday to issue a mandate requiring that all bars, restaurants or Category 3 food service establishments in Jefferson County and the surrounding areas, Walker, Blount, St. Clair and Shelby counties, to prohibit on-site food or beverage consumption for at least one week – Ivey added that other counties across the state are urged to follow the same guidelines.

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During Tuesday’s press conference, Sewell stated that she, Harris and Hastings had discussed the coordinated Alabama response effort during the earlier meeting and asserted that the “crisis” is serious.

Sewell urged Alabamians to stay “prepared, prudent and persistent” throughout the spreading outbreak.

Sewell noted that she was impressed with the measures Alabama has taken thus far to curb the spread of the virus, but urged people to continue to heed guidelines laid out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other health agencies.

“While we cannot see the danger because it is germs, we have to be ever-vigilant in making sure that we do the things that are in our own control, which is to wash our hands for 20 seconds, which is to practice social distancing, which is to clean our equipment that we use on a daily basis,” Sewell said. “We have to do all that we can to make sure that we all, as a community, will get through this.”

Harris followed Sewell and stated that the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) is looking at health orders to force social distancing, but reinforced that individuals have the ability to take simple actions to help in stemming the spread of the disease.

Sewell noted later that $8 million of federal funding had recently been handed down to the state from the federal government in order to purchase equipment, tests and more, as well as fund vaccine research.

Sewell also stated that the U.S. House of Representatives has passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which would make testing available for all people, provide tax credits for some companies with less than 500 workers to supplement paid sick leave and expand unemployment benefits.

Hastings stated that “social cohesion” is necessary to fight the virus and that the recent outbreak may force people to “retool” their interactions afterward.

“This is a pandemic,” Sewell said later. “This is serious business…We are in crisis mode….We’re all working together to try to meet this challenge.”