Gov. wants to reboot state’s economy; stay-home order stays in place
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
As Gov. Kay Ivey announced plans to cautiously kick-start the state’s economy after more than a month of relative dormancy, state and local health officials reported this week that the number of Escambia County (Ala.) residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 has risen.
Ivey announced a moderate loosening up of her stay-at-home order, which was issued in mid-March and led to closure of all “non-essential” businesses across the state, during a Tuesday, April 21, media conference.
Statewide, more than 48,000 individuals have been tested for the virus, with 5,092 confirmed cases and 144 deaths. Health officials have expressed varying opinions on whether or not the virus is starting to run its course, and Ivey said she was still considering the recommendations made by her Coronavirus Task Force that the stay-at-home order could possibly loosened in the near future.
Among the recommendations were that the state’s beaches be reopened on May 1, and that non-emergency medical procedures resume on that date. The panel also suggested that youth baseball programs be given the OK to start action on May 15, and that restaurants, retail stores and most other businesses now closed be allowed to open with some restrictions within the next few weeks.
The governor said she was taking the suggestions under advisement, but announced that the stay-at-home order would remain in effect until at least April 30 while the task force and state health officials continue to develop a plan for rebooting the dormant state economy.
“I want to open up our economy, and we can do this,” Ivey said. “But we have to be careful and cautious in what we’re doing, and we have to do it in a safe and productive way. We have to determine the when, how and what way businesses will reopen.”
Atmore Mayor Jim Staff said prior to Ivey’s press conference that the task force recommendations would likely work in a smaller town, whereas they might not in the state’s metropolitan areas.
“The recommendations the task force made would work here in Atmore, but it could be a whole different thing in Birmingham or Mobile,” he said. “Even if she opens up the stores, and they could let just a couple of people in at the time, that would help. But I haven’t been asked for my advice, and I’m going to obey the governor, whatever she decides.”
Locally, Alabama Department of Public Health officials reported that 16 cases of COVID-19 have been reported among county residents, although several of the patients were tested outside the county. No deaths have been reported within the county or among county residents.
Escambia County Healthcare Authority officials released updated figures Tuesday morning showing that specimens resulting in 11 cases of the novel coronavirus have been taken at Atmore Community Hospital, where 222 specimens have been collected overall. Of those specimens, 167 turned out negative for the virus, the results of 23 others were pending, and one specimen led to inconclusive results.
At Brewton’s D.W. McMillan Memorial Hospital, medical staff had collected 121 specimens, with two positive results, 114 negative and five pending.
Gov. Ivey spoke directly to the small business owners who are bearing the brunt of the stay-at-home order and the emergency declaration she issued in March. She stressed that a lot of factors have to be considered before her orders are lifted.
“You’re hurting,” she said. “But we know who you are, and we want to help you get back on your feet as soon as possible. It’s not as simple as flicking a switch, though.”