First local case reported; more closings announced
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues its spread across the U.S. and Alabama, and now into Escambia County, more stringent measures have been implemented to slow proliferation of the virus.
Alabama Department of Public Health officials announced last week that an Escambia County resident recently tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
County healthcare officials have said that the “patient sample” was collected at neither Atmore Community Hospital nor D.W. McMillan Memorial Hospital in Brewton.
City parks closed; arrests limited
Atmore City Council members approved at a special Saturday session a resolution authorizing city police to issue summonses in most cases instead of arresting those who commit minor crimes. Also on Saturday, Mayor Jim Staff issued a health directive that closed all city parks until further notice. (See related story, this edition.)
Most businesses closed
In accordance with an order issued by Gov. Kay Ivey, all businesses deemed “non-essential” were ordered to close their doors to the public, at least until April 17, when the issue will be re-addressed.
Those businesses include any and all entertainment venues, athletic facilities and activities, close-contact service providers (barber shops, nail and tanning salons, etc.) and retail stores. Only groceries, pharmacies, gas stations, restaurants (drive-through, delivery or curb service only) and auto and farm machinery repair shops and parts retailers may remain open.
The governor’s proclamation also prohibits elective medical, dental or surgical procedures and bans all non-work-related gatherings of 10 or more people unless those gathered can maintain a six-foot distance from each other. The state’s public and private beaches have also been closed, as have all facilities providing child day care at which 12 or more children are in a room or other enclosed or separated space at the same time.
Feeding the hungry
The Escambia County Alabama School System is providing breakfast and lunch (to be taken home) to children 18 years of age and younger.
Pick-up locations are Escambia County Middle School, 1564 Highway 21, Atmore; Flomaton Elementary School, 1634 Poplar Street, Flomaton, and W.S. Neal High School, 801 Andrew Jackson Street, East Brewton. (For more details, see related article in this edition.)
AG, Amazon team up
Attorney General Steve Marshall announced the formation of a partnership with Amazon.com to combat online price gouging. The partnership is part of Attorney General Marshall’s effort to enlist the nation’s largest technology companies to stem the tide of price gouging of Alabama consumers seeking to protect themselves from the COVID-19 virus.
Amazon officials have agreed to partner with the AG’s office to receive and investigate potential price gouging of products being marketed to Alabamians, including hand sanitizer, household cleaners, face masks and toilet paper.
Alabamians who want to file an illegal price gouging report are encouraged to do so at https://www.alabamaag.gov/consumercomplaint, or to call 1-800-392-5658.
Marshall is expected to soon announce more partnerships with other technology companies that have also agreed to work with his office to combat price gouging.
Parole hearings cancelled
Alabama Bureau of Pardons and Paroles has cancelled 172 parole hearings that had been scheduled through mid-April. Parole hearings are held in Montgomery and are usually attended by family members, friends and representatives of inmates and crime victims from all over the state. Inmates do not attend the hearings.
Hearings for pardon requests are also canceled and will be rescheduled as soon as possible.
No college graduations
The Alabama Community College System announced last week that online instruction will continue at all of its campuses through the remainder of the spring semester. In addition, due to restrictions on event sizes by state and federal officials, all traditional commencement activities will be postponed.
“While we couldn’t have imagined what this semester would look like for our colleges, I am incredibly grateful for the creativity, resilience, and commitment to learning shown by our faculty, staff, and students during this difficult time,” said ACCS Chancellor Jimmy H. Baker.
For continued updates and to view already issued directives to ACCS colleges visit, accs.edu/coronavirus.
Driver license offices closed
Alabama Law Enforcement Agency officials announced that all state driver license offices will be closed to all public access. Staff will remain on-site to answer phones and assist with online services. This deadline extension should relieve some of the wait time at ALEA’s DL offices to obtain a STAR ID during the next several months.
Those needing to renew individual driver licenses, commercial driver licenses and state-issued ID may do so online. Alabama drivers who are out of state for military, employment, missionary work, under a physician’s care or other issues may renew by mail.
Officials also announced that once ALEA’s Driver License Division resumes normal operations, customers may schedule an appointment on the agency’s website to obtain a STAR ID and conduct other driver license business. They also reminded the public of the 60-day grace period for driver license renewals and that individuals whose driver licenses must be reinstated may contact the Driver License Division and take care of that task by phone.
For more information on STAR ID, online renewals and other services, and the latest on Driver License Division office closures, visit www.alea.gov.
Ride it out
The continued spread of COVID-19 could lead to further sanctions or restrictions in the coming weeks, and most of those already in place have been extended to at least the end of April.
Local residents are reminded to observe “social distancing” rules, to wash their hands regularly and to regularly sanitize any surfaces with which they or their families might come in contact.
Local, state and national health officials say there is still no effective vaccine for the novel coronavirus, so individuals and families are encouraged to make the best of the situation and follow all public health directives until a break in the pandemic is realized.