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Governor

Gov. Ivey says no plans for statewide “shelter-in-place” order

Eddie Burkhalter

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Gov. Kay Ivey on Tuesday said there are no plans for a statewide shelter-in-place order due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We have seen other states in the country doing that, as well as other countries, but however ya’ll. We are not California. We are not New York. We aren’t even Louisiana,” Ivey said on a conference call Monday. “My priority is to keep the Alabama economy going as much as possible, while we take extraordinary measures to keep everyone healthy and safe.” 

The Birmingham City Council on Monday approved a shelter-in-place order to help stem the tide of new COVID-19 cases in the city. The order bans all non-essential travel. Residents can still go to their essential job, leave home for things such as groceries, gas, medicine, health care or food, and for outdoor exercise. 

In a press conference Tuesday morning, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said 45 people who tested positive for the virus are hospitalized at UAB Medical Center in Birmingham, dozens more are under observation and at least 18 are on ventilators.

There were 242 confirmed COVID-19 cases across Alabama on Monday afternoon, although state health officials have said testing remains low in many parts of the state, so the actual spread of the virus is hard to know.  The number of known new cases in Alabama has been doubling about every three days. 

All Alabamians are under a statewide order that prohibits gatherings of 25 or more people, or any gathering in which people cannot keep 6 feet of distance apart from one another, but the ban doesn’t apply to workplaces. 

Ivey said that she knows small businesses are “feeling the pinch” and may feel hopeless when it’s hard to see the end in sight, “but I want to echo the president who today said,  quote, ‘We have to get back to work.’ We must do everything we can to keep businesses open. And if they are closed, get them back up as soon as possible.” 

President Donald Trump in a press briefing Monday suggested that in a matter of “weeks” and not “months” he planned to ease federal guidelines on social distancing, which are at the heart of the government’s 15-day “slow the spread” plan. 

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“We can do both things,” Trump said several times during Monday’s press conference when asked if the government should focus on protecting U.S. lives and health or the economy. 

Trump’s statements caused concern from health care experts and a few members of his own party, who say easing the guidelines would cause the virus to spread more quickly. 

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R- South Carolina, in a tweet Monday said doing so cost lives. 

“Try running an economy with major hospitals overflowing, doctors and nurses forced to stop treating some because they can’t help all, and every moment of gut-wrenching medical chaos being played out in our living rooms, on TV, on social media, and shown all around the world,” Graham said in the tweet. 

Asked a similar question on Tuesday, whether the state government should be focused more on stopping the spread and public health, or the economy, Ivey echoed Trump, and said both. 

“The safety and well-being of Alabamians are paramount. However, I agree with President Trump, who thinks that a healthy and vital economy is just as essential to our quality of life,” Ivey said. “Manufacturers and business owners are producing the medicines, the protective health equipment and the food we need. It’s a balance and we’ve had to strike the appropriate balance as we move forward and as to appreciate the public being patient as you work through this.” 

Asked if the state was considering a stimulus package similar to what the federal government is working on, Ivey again discussed getting Alabama’s economy running without barriers. 

“In the past decade, we have made it a priority to not spend more than the state has collected, so the answer to this question is dependent on the economy and the economic forecasts, but there again, it’s about keeping Alabama businesses open and running,” Ivey said. “And if enact a shelter-in-place it will further impact our economy. These are things we’re all weighing out. We certainly do not have plans for shelter in place.” 

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Monday issued a stay-in-place order for “at-risk” groups, which include those living in long-term care facilities, those with some chronic illnesses, people who tested positive for the virus or were exposed to someone who has it. 

Atlanta’s mayor on Monday signed a 14-day stay-at-home order for all city residents. 

Ivey later in the Monday conference call cautioned Alabamians from traveling across state lines to visit family or friends, which could put them and others at risk of contracting the virus. 

“We want to keep our economy moving for sure, but that means we have to take extra precautions and doing so,” Ivey said. 

Alabama’s State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris was asked during Monday’s conference call whether he agrees with Trump’s statement Monday that the President thinks it will be a matter of weeks, not months before decisions are made to loosen restrictions on public life, Harris said he’s not yet sure. 

“In China, for example, they’ve just begun to see improvement in the past week after something that probably appeared in December, so there’s so much unknown right now that it’s just very challenging to say,” Harris said. “But it certainly could be weeks or months, and we’ll know a little bit more when we see our state develops in the next couple of weeks. I think.”

Asked if the state was doing enough to keep people safe when it comes to closures, Harris couldn’t say. 

 “I certainly am not sure if we’re doing enough or if we’re doing too much when it comes to this response, because it’s just very difficult to look into the future and know what we’re going to be seeing in a few weeks,” Harris said. 

“We’re certainly trying to make the best decision we can with the data we have available, and it’s possible we’ll end up looking like we didn’t do enough or it’s possible we’ll end up looking like we overreacted. And at this point, we’re doing the best we can with the information we have,” Harris said. 

What he and other state officials now have is an incomplete look at the spread of COVID-19 throughout the state, due to what Harris and other state health officials have said is a deficiency in testing in many areas statewide, largely due to the state’s struggle to source enough testing supplies and personal protective equipment for staff. 

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Economy

Gov. Ivey launches state guide to COVID-19 relief efforts

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Governor Kay Ivey on Monday announced the launch of altogetheralabama.org, an online resource that will serve as a hub of information for the state’s response to the coronavirus crisis.

The site becomes the state’s official guide to COVID-19 relief efforts, to help empower those impacted by the outbreak and those who want to offer support.

“We wanted to quickly create a trusted resource that centralizes information, resources and opportunities for businesses and individuals in need of support,” Governor Ivey said. “We are all in this together.”

The website is designed to be a comprehensive guide to aid in navigating all issues related to the COVID-19 response. Individuals and business owners can seek help and identify state and federal resources that can provide a lifeline in the form of low-interest loans and financial assistance.

Business owners, for example, can learn about the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, which launched April 3 to provide a direct incentive for them to keep their workers on the payroll. Displaced workers, meanwhile, can use the site to learn about enhanced unemployment benefits.

“It’s important for Alabama’s business owners and its workforce to take full advantage of the resources being made available through the federal government’s $2 trillion coronavirus relief package,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. “The site is meant to expedite the process so both employers and employees can get back up on their feet as fast as possible.”

At the same time, the site will function as a pathway for Alabama’s good corporate citizens and the general public to offer support and solutions that can help spark recovery across the state. It will act as a portal for companies, non-profits and individuals to volunteer, make donations of supplies, offer an assistance program, and even post job openings.

The site was developed in partnership with Opportunity Alabama, a non-profit organization that promotes investment in the state’s designated Opportunity Zones. It was facilitated by a partnership with Alabama Power.

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“Over the last two years, Opportunity Zones have allowed us to build a network of stakeholders that care deeply about helping distressed places,” said Alex Flachsbart, Opportunity Alabama founder and CEO. “We hope this site will provide a gateway linking our network to those businesses and communities in economic distress, no matter where they are in Alabama.”

“These are challenging times,” added Governor Ivey. “We needed a place to efficiently and rapidly post and disseminate information – as soon as it’s available – for all affected parties. Thank you for your support and partnership in helping bring Alabama together.”

Any business, program or individual who would like to join ALtogether as a resource in COVID-19 response and relief can register at altogetheralabama.org/join.

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Governor

Governor prohibits evictions, foreclosures during COVID-19 outbreak

Jessa Reid Bolling

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photo via Governors Office

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued an order on April 3 to suspend the enforcement of any evictions or foreclosures due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The protective order is set to last for the duration of the state of emergency that was declared on March 13.

The order instructs all law enforcement officers to cease enforcement of any order that would leave someone displaced from their residence.

“Because COVID-19 mitigation efforts require people to remain at their place of residence, I find that it would promote safety and protection of the civilian population to grant temporary relief from residential evictions and foreclosures,” the order reads. 

“To that end: All state, county, and local law enforcement officers are hereby directed to cease enforcement of any order that would result in the displacement of a person from his or her place of residence. 

“Nothing in this section shall be construed as relieving any individual of the obligation to pay rent, to make mortgage payments, or to comply with any other obligation that an individual may have under a rental agreement or mortgage.”

The protective order on evictions and foreclosures was issued the same day that Ivey issued a stay-at-home order which will require Alabamians to stay at home as much as possible — except for essential outings like grocery shopping and getting medical care.

The stay-at-home order goes into effect on April 4 at 5 p.m. and will expire on Tuesday, April 30, 2020, at 5 p.m. 

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Governor

Gov. Kay Ivey orders Alabama to stay at home as cases near 1,500

Chip Brownlee

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Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey is issuing a stay-at-home order, reversing course after two weeks of saying the state didn’t need one.

“I can’t say this any more clearly,” Ivey said. “COVID-19 is an imminent threat to our way of life. And you need to understand that we have passed urging people to stay at home. It is now the law.”

Before Friday, Ivey has said she did not believe the situation in Alabama warranted such a restrictive order.

“Late yesterday afternoon, it became obvious that more needs to be done,” Ivey said Friday at a press conference.

The governor said as recently as Thursday during a Twitter town hall that she wanted to balance public health and the economy, adding that the state is different from other states facing large outbreaks of the novel coronavirus.

“We have seen other states in the country doing that as well as other countries,” Ivey said last week. “However, y’all, we are not California. We are not New York. We are not even Louisiana.”

But by Friday morning — as cases of COVID-19 in Alabama surpassed 1,400 and the governors of all of Alabama’s neighboring states announced stay-at-home orders — Ivey decided to issue one, too.

“I am convinced that our previous efforts to limit social interaction and reduce the chances of spreading this virus have not been enough,” Ivey said. “And that’s why we are taking this more drastic step.”

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The new rules will go into effect on Saturday, April 4, at 5 p.m. and will expire on Tuesday, April 30, 2020, at 5 p.m. (You can view the full order at the bottom of this page.)

Ivey said Friday that the state must take this “deadly seriously.”

“If you’re eager for a fall football season coming up, what we’re doing today gives us a better chance of being able to do that as well,” she said.

The decision also comes after White House adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci and the U.S. surgeon general said the White House’s COVID-19 guidance amounts to a recommendation for a nationwide stay-at-home order.

Ivey’s new order will require Alabamians to stay at home as much as possible — except for essential outings like grocery shopping and getting medical care.

“No one is immune from this. It’s not even safe to go to our places of worship and congregate as we are so used to doing at this holy time of the year,” Ivey said.

Essential outings will include work at critical jobs, solitary exercise outdoors, buying food, going to the grocery store or getting health care or medicine. Those will still be allowed.

Attorney General Steve Marshall said Friday that the stay-at-home order will have the force of law and will be enforced as such. Criminal prosecution of those who do not comply is possible, but he said he hopes people will voluntarily comply.

“This is a time when we should be working together to get through an extremely difficult time,” Marshall said.

Last week, Ivey ordered closed until April 17 numerous types of businesses including athletic events, entertainment venues, non-essential retail shops and service establishments with close contact.

But she did not go as far as ordering residents to stay home.

In other ways, Ivey moved more quickly than neighboring governors. She closed the state’s beaches on March 19, before other states like Florida. She also ordered restaurants to limit service to take-out and delivery.

By last Friday, the state prohibited gatherings of 10 or more people and any gathering in which a six-foot distance could not be maintained between persons, but the order did not apply to work-related gatherings.

The governor and the state superintendent of education also closed schools for the remainder of the school year.

Ivey, unlike the governor in Mississippi, did not try to overrule cities and counties who issued curfews and stay-at-home orders. She said she supported them.

Before Ivey closed restaurants and some non-essential businesses last week, Jefferson County didn’t wait on state leaders. Health officers in Jefferson County — where the number of cases is high — issued more restrictive measures meant to keep residents safe during the pandemic.

Jefferson and Mobile Counties, however, are the only in the state to have independent health departments, with legal authority to act autonomously from the state health department.

The new order comes as dire modeling from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimate that Alabama could reach its peak of the outbreak by April 17 and it could be one of the worst-affected states.

At the height of the outbreak, the modeling suggests Alabama could see 303 COVID-19 deaths per day for a total of 5,500 deaths by August — much higher than most states. Alabama may also face a hospital bed and ventilator shortage by mid-April, the IHME projections estimate.

The model, which changes often based on the number of deaths reported per day, shows that Alabama could, at the height of its outbreak, see more deaths per day than Florida, Illinois or Texas.

Florida and Texas have more than twenty times the population of Alabama.

Some have suggested the IHME modeling, which has been cited by President Donald Trump and his coronavirus task force, are actually too optimistic.

Others say they are, for states like Alabama, worst-case scenarios. Different states have more data available for the model to work off. In Alabama, the outbreak is younger and fewer data points are available. FiveThirtyEight has explained why building models to predict pandemics is so difficult.

But experts at the University of Alabama Birmingham, including the director of the division of infectious diseases, Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, have said the IHME modeling may be the worst-case scenario, but it is instructive.

Marrazzo is on the governor’s coronavirus task force. She’s warned that the state could be facing supply shortages and dire decisions if the outbreak is not contained. “This is not a hypothetical,” she said Thursday.

In the last two days, the model’s death projections for Alabama have been revised downward from more than 7,000 total deaths to 5,000. The models are live and will likely change again. For Alabama in particular, there is a lot of uncertainty in the model.

“I don’t know that the actual numbers are going to be correct or not,” State Health Officer Scott Harris said Friday. “I mean, they might be, and we’re doing our best to prepare for that.”

The light red area indicates uncertainty in the model.

But Alabama, like most southern states, is particularly susceptible to the virus because a high number of the state’s residents have underlying health conditions that make them more vulnerable to severe illness and death.

So far, about one in 10 deaths in the United States from COVID-19 has occurred in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia, according to data assembled by the COVID Tracking Project.

During a town hall with Sen. Doug Jones Thursday, Marrazzo suggested the state may need a stay-at-home order to send a clear message. Jones also called on Ivey to issue such an order.

“The reason I would like to see one is because it sends a strong message to the people of Alabama of how significant it is to use the social distancing, to use whatever means necessary to stop the spread of this virus,” Jones said Thursday.

As of Friday afternoon, Alabama had nearly 1,500 positive cases and 38 reported deaths.

Alabama Stay-At-Home Order by Chip Brownlee on Scribd

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Governor

Gov. Ivey OKs release of some parole violators in jails

Chip Brownlee

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Gov. Kay Ivey is allowing the release of some alleged probation and parole violators in the custody of jails across the state. She’s also issued a number of new directives to free up health care resources.

The measures are intended to slow the transmission of COVID-19 and prepare for a rise in hospitalizations.

In a new executive order, Ivey is allowing sheriffs and local officials across the state to release some inmates being held in jails on alleged probation or parole violations if those inmates have been in jail custody for more than 20 days without a parole or probation hearing.

Violators who are being held on new criminal charges or other criminal charges aren’t eligible for release, according to the order, which mainly applies to those in custody on technical violations.

If a hearing is not held within 20 days, the sheriff shall release the violator unless they are being held on other criminal charges.

“Because the conditions of jails inherently heighten the possibility of COVID-19 transmission, I find that it would promote the safety and protection of the civilian population to allow local officials to reduce the number of local inmates being held in county jails in a way that does not jeopardize public safety,” Ivey wrote in her order.

The order does not apply to inmates in state prisons.

You can read Ivey’s full order here.

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In the same modified executive order, Ivey ordered state agencies to allow for an expanded scope of practice for health care workers like nurses, nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists. Experts fear there may not be enough health care practitioners to care for the number of patients that may require hospitalization and inpatient care.

This part of the order, intended to reduce strain on medical workers caring for COVID-19 patients, will relax but not completely eliminate the degree of supervision required for these non-M.D. health care professionals to care for patients.

As the number of COVID-19 cases in the state rises and hospitals begin to feel the strain of the outbreak, Ivey also directed state agencies to provide temporary waivers so hospitals and nursing homes can free up bed space and open new facilities if needed.

Additional new directives in Ivey’s supplemental order:

  • Allows expedited process for out-of-state pharmacists, nurses, and doctors to obtain temporary licenses to practice in Alabama
  • Expedited reinstatement of medical licenses, allowing retired doctors, and others who left the profession in good standing to return to practice
  • Pharmacy Board can expedite procedures to establish temporary pharmacies.
  • Notary publics can notarize documents remotely.
  • Government agencies can postpone unnecessary meetings or meet remotely.
  • Corporate shareholder meetings can be conducted remotely.
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