Jefferson County, Alabama’s largest county, is banning gatherings of 25 or more, closing senior centers, banning visitors to nursing homes, and closing private schools until April 6.
“I would not have considered this two days ago,” said Jefferson County Commission president Jimmie Stephens, speaking at a press conference Monday.
Restaurants, bars and breweries are restricted to pickup or delivery for at least a week.
The decision by the county’s health department is binding and will be enforced by the sheriff’s office. These restrictions are intended to prevent widespread infection in an effort to prevent overwhelming the state’s hospital system.
Jefferson County health officer Dr. Mark Wilson said during the press conference that with the 17 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county as of Monday afternoon they believe there’s community spread and said he’s certain the 17 cases are “a major underrepresentation of what is going on in our community.”
“We believe there are many, many more cases that we have not detected,” Wilson said, adding that without swift and deliberate action the cases will likely double every two days.
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Chip Brownlee contributed to this report.