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Bars are weak point in COVID spread

On Monday, the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board ordered all bars to stop serving alcohol at 11 p.m. in an attempt to somewhat control the spread of the coronavirus.

Different beverages on bar counter in modern cafe

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House coronavirus task force, has said that all the bars should be closed due to the danger of coronavirus transmission there.

“Bars: really not good, really not good. Congregation at a bar, inside, is bad news. We really have got to stop that,” Fauci said to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on “COVID-19: Update on Progress Toward Safely Getting Back to Work and Back to School.”

Fauci repeated his call to close the bars in a July press conference with U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama, and Alabama press.

“Fundamental things like masking, distancing, washing hands, closing bars — if you do that, I think it will be a giant step toward interfering with the spread in your community,” Fauci said on July 7. “We should reopen the economy, but it should be done with caution.”

A week after Fauci’s comments, Gov. Kay Ivey and State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris did modify the state’s “safer-at-home” order to include a statewide mask mandate, but they did nothing about the dangerous social interactions going on in Alabama’s bars and night clubs.

On Monday, the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board ordered all bars to stop serving alcohol at 11 p.m. in an attempt to somewhat control the spread of the coronavirus.

The emergency rule is effective immediately, but will not be enforced until Saturday, Aug. 1. All ABC licensees are being ordered to cease the service and sale of alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption between the hours of 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. On-premises consumption is to end at 11:30 p.m., according to the ABC Board.

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“Our hope is that reduced hours of alcohol service will decrease social gatherings and the transmission of COVID-19,” said ABC Board administrator Mac Gipson. “Our number one goal is to protect the public and our license holders. We believe this emergency order will reduce the exposure to and spread of COVID-19.”

Bars have been identified as a source of spread of the virus. The original motion was to stop alcohol sales at 10 p.m. but the board weakened that proposal by extending it to 11 p.m.

“The primary mission of the Alabama ABC Board is to protect the health, safety and welfare of our citizens and we take this mission very seriously,” said ABC Board Chairperson Col. Alan Spencer. “We are very sensitive to the economic impact this rule will have. This is a gut-wrenching decision we are making today, but it is also gut-wrenching to see the number of Alabamians who are suffering from this disease. On balance, I am compelled to vote in favor of the rule. This will be a very short duration and will relieve this restriction as soon as possible.”

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey originally ordered all of the bars closed back in March. Ivey reopened many nonessential businesses on May 1 but left the bars and nightclubs closed due to the obvious health risks with allowing them to operate. In mid-May, the governor relented, under pressure from the business community, and allowed the bars and nightclubs to reopen.

The reopening of the Alabama economy has been a disaster to this point with 62,177 new coronavirus cases since June 1. The state had 17,932 cases combined in March, April and May when nonessential businesses, including the bars, were shutdown. The state has had 41,593 cases in the month of July alone. There have also been 520 deaths in Alabama from COVID-19 in July, by far the state’s worst month of the pandemic.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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