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Governor expected to update stay-at-home order Tuesday

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey is expected to address the status of her stay-at-home order Tuesday morning at a press conference at the state capitol, according to several lawmakers who were on a conference call with the governor Monday and State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris.

The governor’s office says the press conference will be at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, when she will provide “further updates on COVID-19.”

Harris, who leads the Alabama Department of Public Health, said Monday in an interview with APR that a final decision on updating the state’s public health order has not been reached, but that he and the governor’s office are meeting to discuss the state’s ongoing strategy to combat the virus.

As Ivey plans to hold a press conference, several of Alabama’s neighboring states have begun to ease and lift stay-at-home restrictions in recent days. Georgia has gone the farthest, allowing restaurants and some other businesses to begin reopening last week and this week.

But Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s decision to loosen restrictions received a stern rebuke from the White House and President Donald Trump, who said Kemp moved too quickly.

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

Harris said Ivey is weighing recommendations from her Coronavirus Task Force and advisory committees convened in each of Alabama’s seven congressional districts.

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“There aren’t any final health orders that I’ve seen, and I know nothing has been signed yet,” Harris said. “I’ve met with them all weekend. People all over the state are sending in recommendations. We’re considering all of that in view of what the numbers are, and we’ve had a lot of discussions with the governor about what can be done and what different policy options are that she has.”

Harris said they have more meetings today to address the state’s ongoing response. Ivey has said her reopening strategy will not be immediate like “flipping on a light switch,” but that it will be “data-driven” and not “date-driven.”

The state health officer said Monday morning that he thinks there could be a middle ground between the White House’s recommended reopening strategy and a more measured, less ambitious reopening. For example, the White House’s phase one reopening includes the following:

  • LARGE VENUES (e.g., sit-down dining, movie theaters, sporting venues, places of worship) can operate under strict physical distancing protocols.
  • ELECTIVE SURGERIES can resume, as clinically appropriate, on an outpatient basis at facilities that adhere to CMS guidelines.
  • GYMS can open if they adhere to strict physical distancing and sanitation protocols.
  • BARS should remain closed.

Harris said concerns remain that Alabama is not doing enough testing to fully reopen and new case numbers have not improved so substantially that the state is ready for a full reopening.

“I think we see some things that are improving,” Harris said, “some numbers that are flat. I think that allows us to consider whether we could do some intermediate changes that don’t fully follow with what the White House says phase one should be. Every place is a little bit different.”

Ivey issued her stay-at-home order on April 3. The rules went into effect on April 4, at 5 p.m., and remain in effect until Thursday, April 30, at 5 p.m., unless Ivey lifts the restrictions earlier. Since her order went into effect, the state has seen the number of COVID-19 cases increase from 1,841 to now nearly 6,500.

But that is a much slower rate of growth than feared, and public health officials, including Harris, have attributed the slowing spread to social-distancing guidelines and the stay-at-home order.

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Chip Brownlee is a former political reporter, online content manager and webmaster at the Alabama Political Reporter. He is now a reporter at The Trace, a non-profit newsroom covering guns in America.

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