Alabama will start to reopen on April 30 as Gov. Kay Ivey’s stay-at-home order expires at 5 p.m., and the state will shift to a less restrictive order.
Ivey announced the decision at a press conference on April 28.
Ivey, a Republican, enacted the order on April 4 due to the spread of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, a novel coronavirus that emerged from mainland China last year. At the time, there was a fear that a surge of patients would require hospital care.
“As of this week, we no longer believe our hospitals will see an overwhelming amount of ICU patients who need ventilators, as we once believed, and that is sure good news,” Ivey said.
Case numbers and deaths have remained relatively flat in recent days, State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris told reporters. Hospitals have not faced shortages of equipment. Alternative sites prepared in expectation of a surge in patients have not needed to be used.
As of April 28, Alabama has 6,580 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 900 total hospitalizations, and 241 deaths linked to the disease. All but 59 had at least one underlying health condition; those without any conditions were at least 48 years old, with 83 percent being 65 or older.
COVID-19, the disease that the CCP virus causes, primarily affects the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.
Retailers in Alabama can reopen on Friday with 50 percent occupancy, while ensuring social distancing requirements are met, such as maintaining six feet of distance between people from different households. State beaches will also reopen and elective procedures in medical clinics can resume.
Other businesses won’t be allowed to reopen yet because the state hasn’t seen a two-week sustained decline in new COVID-19 cases, Harris said. The businesses not allowed to reopen yet include restaurants, salons, and gyms.
Ivey called the decision to shut down so-called non-essential businesses “extremely difficult” and emphasized she feels every business is worthwhile.
“If government kills a business, Washington can’t print enough money to bring it back to life,” she said.
The new phase, called safer at home, maintains a number of social distancing recommendations and requirements, such as wearing face coverings around people from other households when they leave the house and continuing emphasis on proper hand-washing and other common-sense hygiene practices.
People will not face arrest for disobeying the rules but should abide by them, officials said.
“The threat of COVID-19 is not over. All of our people are susceptible to the infection,” Ivey said.
Non-work related gatherings of 10 or more or any size that can’t maintain social distancing requirements are prohibited. Employers should take reasonable steps to have employees avoid gatherings of 10 or more while ramping up disinfectant efforts.
The safer at home order lasts until May 15.