Ivey issues proclamation aimed at curbing spread of coronavirus

Published 8:28 am Saturday, March 21, 2020

A flurry of action has taken place over the past few days as state officials work to fight the spread of COVID-19 in Alabama, which has seen cases grow exponentially since the first case was reported last Friday – as of Thursday afternoon, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) was reporting 68 cases statewide, with 31 cases in Jefferson County, 10 cases in Lee County, eight cases in Shelby County, five cases in Elmore County, four cases in Tuscaloosa County, two cases in Montgomery county and one case each in Baldwin, Calhoun, Chambers, Limestone, Madison, St. Clair, Talladega and Walker counties.

With virus spreading quickly, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued a proclamation Wednesday taking “additional extraordinary measures” in an effort to “guard public health and protect human life,” followed by a statewide public health order issued Thursday.

Among the measures taken in the Wednesday proclamation was the rescheduling of the March 31 primary runoff to July 14 and the formalization of the March 13 order issued orally to close all Alabama schools until at least Monday, April 6.

Additionally, the Wednesday proclamation made sweeping changes to the state’s Open Meetings Act guidelines in an effort to observe “social distancing” recommendations laid out both by the ADPH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The proclamation states that governmental bodies may conduct meetings, establish a quorum, deliberate and take action via telephone or video conference, assuming that all actions taken are necessary to respond to the COVID_19 pandemic or are necessary to execute “essential minimum functions” of the body.

The proclamation notes that entities are “encouraged” to use equipment that allows members of the public to tune in and requires that entities hosting such meetings post a summary of the meeting within 12 hours of the meeting’s conclusion.

Ivey’s proclamation further allows state agencies and local awarding authorities to enter into contracts for goods and services without public advertisement where it is necessary for pandemic-related services, though such agencies are still required to “maintain accurate and fully itemized records” of actions taken under these provisions.

Further, the proclamation states that all employees of the State of Alabama who have or will have to “perform response services away from their home base of operations” will be reimbursed for “actual and necessary expenses,” assuming claims for such reimbursements are reasonable and certified by the employee’s agency head.

While these actions largely dealt with state agencies and had little impact on the general public, Ivey’s public health order issued the following day directly impacts all citizens of the state.

Until April 5, the following rules will be in place across Alabama:

• All gatherings of 25 people or more, or any gathering that cannot guarantee the recommended six feet of distance between persons, are prohibited, including any gathering, activity or event that brings more than 25 people into a single room or space at the same time;

• On-premise consumption of food or beverages is prohibited at all restaurants, bars, breweries or similar establishments, though Ivey encouraged residents to continue to patron their local eateries for take-out or delivery options;

• Effective at 5 p.m. Thursday, all state beaches were set to be closed;

• Preschool and childcare centers were closed at the end of the school or business day Tuesday, aside from those licensed childcare centers that provide services exclusively to employees of state and local governments, first responders, law enforcement, hospitals, nursing home or long-term care facilities, end-stage renal disease treatment centers, pharmacies and grocery stores;

• All visitation is prohibited at all hospitals and nursing homes or long-term care facilities, aside from essential healthcare personnel, with exceptions for certain compassionate care situations such as maternity and end-of-life.

• All elective dental and medical procedures shall be delayed immediately.

“My administration – and all the services of state government – are going to be as flexible as humanly possible to help make your government work for you during the coming days and weeks,” Ivey said in a statement issued Thursday. “I want to the thank the people of our great state for their continued patience and for taking great care of themselves and each other during this pandemic.”

“We understand that the health orders issued will be a hardship on Alabamians,” said Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris in the same press release. “We must, first and foremost, protect the health and safety of our citizens.  This decision has not been made lightly and will help to prevent the spread of this virus.”