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Coronavirus, Week 5

3 cases now confirmed in county
Local testing, meals programs, more

Lunch for heroes David Landis along with several donors, launched on April 2 their Atmore Heroes Lunch program, which began with meals for employees of Atmore Community Hospital, Atmore Police Department, Atmore Fire Department and ambulance services. The program will continue as a weekly event during the COVID19 crisis, with Poarch first responders added to the heroes list and an increase in the number of meals to 225 this week. Any individual, church, or business that would like to be a part of blessing local healthcare and first responder heroes, is urged to email David at davidraylandis@gmail.com. Shown are members of the Landis family, from left, David Jr., Diana, Debbie, and Dave.

News Staff Writer

The coronavirus pandemic’s effect has not been as prevalent in Escambia County as in many other Alabama locations, but state health officials announced that a third Escambia County resident has been confirmed as a victim of the virus.
Escambia County Healthcare Authority officials have reported that neither of the first two confirmed cases were a result of patient samples taken at either local hospital, Atmore Community Hospital and D.W. McMillan Memorial Hospital.
No report had been received by Tuesday’s press deadline as to whether or not the third local case was from a sample taken at a hospital within the county.
Also, a patient who does not live within the county but whose sample was taken at ACH also tested positive last week. That person will be included in the statistics for his or her home county and state.
Alabama Department of Public Health [ADPH] also reported that 84 tests had been administered within Escambia County, Alabama, through midnight Sunday, April 5. There have been no deaths within the county as a result of the virus.
The number of tests within the county will increase this week, as Escambia County Health Department offices in Atmore and Brewton conducted drive-through testing of select groups on Monday.
Meals program suspended
Escambia County Superintendent of Education John Knott said this week that careful consideration was given before the decision was made to suspend a program under which three county schools provided free meals to local children.
Breakfasts and lunches were being prepared and distributed to children 18 years of age and younger, whether or not the youngsters were students at a county public school. The program was being implemented at Escambia County Middle School in Atmore, as well as W.S. Neal High School in Brewton and Flomaton Elementary School.
“I do regret that we had to make the decision to suspend the meal program at our schools,” Knott said. “This decision was made after careful consideration of many factors in addition to Gov. Ivey’s Stay at Home order.”
The school superintendent said he realizes that suspension of the program will cause a hardship for some families. He added that consideration will be given to resuming the meals program when and if circumstances allow for it.
“I am sorry for any burden that this action may cause the children and families in our area,” he said. “We will be continually re-examining community needs and resources available, along with a focus on providing for the safety for students and staff.
“It is my hope that we will be able to reinstate these services in the future.”
Animal shelter closed
Officials of Atmore / PCI Animal Shelter announced last week the shelter is closed to the public and will remain closed until further notice.
Atmore Police Chief Chuck Brooks stated in a press release that shelter staff will still answer phone calls and emails during regular office hours, but anyone needing or wanting to visit the animal shelter — for adoptions, fosters or redemptions — may do so by appointment only.
Intake of animals by owner surrender has also being suspended.
Residents are urged not to pick up stray animals unless the resident intends to foster the animal or animals. Strays will not be accepted at the local shelter until further notice. If a person sees a stray animal, he or she should call the shelter at (251) 368-0859 to provide a description and location of the animal.
Only essential intake will be allowed, including animals that have bitten someone and need to be quarantined, dangerous animals, sick or injured animals, and those confiscated for owner and legal-related issues.
Animal Control Officer and shelter director Brandon James thanked the community for its support of the local facility and asked for patience during this challenging time.
AG and eBay
Attorney General Steve Marshall announced today a second partnership aimed at stopping online price gouging of Alabamians during the current health crisis.
The partnership, with eBay, is part of Marshall’s initiative to partner with the nation’s largest retail and technology companies to enable a more proactive and vigilant approach to protecting the people of Alabama from coronavirus-related price gouging.
“I am pleased to welcome the cooperation of eBay in assisting my office in locating and shutting down online price gouging related to the coronavirus pandemic,” said the Attorney General. “While unscrupulous operators too often prey upon the public during times of disaster, e-commerce businesses like eBay have the ability to identify bad actors and stop their illicit businesses from claiming more victims.”
eBay has a policy in place that prohibits price gouging. The site recently announced it would temporarily prohibit the sale of certain masks and hand sanitizers, while placing additional restrictions on the sale of baby formula, baby wipes, diapers, tampons, and toilet paper, due to concerns that inflated prices for these products may violate applicable price gouging laws.
No peanut vote
The Alabama Peanut Producers Association has postponed the Peanut Referendum vote that was scheduled for Thursday, April 9, due to the Stay-At-Home Order issued by Gov. Kay Ivey.
All eligible peanut producers will be notified of the rescheduled date as soon as it becomes available.
New tag deadline
Alabama Department of Revenue officials have again extended the deadline for renewing vehicle tags and paying the taxes on the vehicles. Under the extension, all registration renewals that were due in March or April will now be due on May 15.
Any late-payment penalties that might have accrued on vehicle registration or payment of taxes on vehicles will be waived until May 18.
More restaurants close
While most Atmore-based fast food establishments remain open for drive-through service only, and some walk-in restaurants are offering carry-out or curbside service, more local eateries have decided to discontinue business until the coronavirus pandemic is over.
Among the Atmore restaurants now closed until further notice are David’s Catfish House, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Buster’s, Dixie Catfish Shack, Anchor Café, Whistle Stop Café, and Gather.
Evictions put on hold
Gov. Ivey also issued a proclamation that prohibits law enforcement officers from removing tenants from their homes, granting temporary relief from foreclosures and evictions. Tenants are still obligated to pay their rent or make regular mortgage payments.
There are no changes, however, in state law regarding rent payments, and courts remain open for emergency orders. Under Alabama law landlords are not allowed to shut off power and water, or to change door locks without court approval.