Governor loosens some guidelines
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Gov. Kay Ivey announced the loosening of her Stay-at-Home order Tuesday, April 28, replacing it with a Safer-at-Home order in to try and pump some life into Alabama’s stagnant and dormant economy.
“While maintaining focus on our personal health, it’s now time that we also focus on our economic health,” Ivey said during the televised announcement. “This, too, will be a thoughtful, methodical process. I am pleased to say that because of the efforts during these unprecedented days, we can roll back many of the restrictions that have been placed upon certain social gatherings and businesses.”
The governor urge that residents continue to observe social distancing when in public, to wear masks when away from home and to continue proper handwashing and “other common-sense hygiene.”
She warned that the loosening of restrictions was not an indicator that the COVID-19 pandemic was under control, although health officials say the virus has apparently reached its peak and begun to level off.
“Let me be abundantly clear,” she said. “The threat of COVID-19 is not over. We are still seeing the virus spread, and all our people are susceptible to the infection. We must continue to be vigilant in our social distancing, today and in the foreseeable future … as we ease back into our social interactions.”
Under the new order, which goes into effect at 5 p.m. Thursday, April 30, individuals are encouraged to stay at home and to practice good hygiene. Most businesses — except higher risk ones like entertainment venues, athletic facilities and close-contact service providers (barber shops, nail salons, etc.) — will be allowed to resume operations, subject to sanitation and social-distancing guidelines.
Retail stores may reopen, subject to 50 percent occupancy rule, sanitation and social distancing guidelines; the state’s beaches will reopen with social distancing and congregation restrictions still in effect, and non-emergency medical procedures may proceed.
Schools will remain closed to in-person instruction; restaurants bars and breweries will still be limited to take-out, curbside or delivery service; child care facilities must limit occupancy to fewer than 12 children, and restrictions still remain in place for visitation at hospitals and nursing homes, as well as activities in senior centers.
Locally, Escambia County Health Care officials released their twice-weekly COVID-19 update Tuesday, April 28, showing that 21 people have tested positive at Atmore Community Hospital and 3 confirmed cases came from samples taken at D.W. McMillan Memorial Hospital in Brewton.
ACH staff has taken 254 samples, with 218 turning out negative, one giving an inconclusive reading, and 14 for which results are pending. At DWM, 141 tests have yielded 128 negative readings, while the results of three tests are pending.
Statewide, tests conducted on 74,359 people have turned up 6,580 confirmed cases, with 241 deaths attributed to the virus.
Alabama Department of Public Health figures show that 26 Escambia County residents have tested positive for COVID-19. Five were tested at hospitals outside the county.
ADPH announced last week that the county had suffered its first death from the novel coronavirus. ADPH has not released details about the individual who lost his or her life to the virus, and an ECHCA spokesman said county officials did not know the particulars behind the death.
Asked what age group the person was, the part of the county in which he or she lived, at what hospital the person was tested, and at which hospital the person might have died, ECHCA’s Director of Public Affairs and Marketing, Jason Daniel, said, “We do not have that information either.”
Meanwhile, the Escambia County Health Department began conducting drive-through COVID-19 tests this week and plans to continue doing so, once a week, until a “demonstrated community need” no longer exists.
The drive-in testing clinics are being held on Mondays, from 1 to 3 p.m., at the satellite courthouse off U.S. 31. The next clinic is scheduled for May 4.
Suzanne Terrell, Assistant Administrator for the Alabama Department of Public Health’s Southwestern District, reported that 15 people were tested — 9 in Atmore, 6 in Brewton — on the first day of the drive-through exams Monday, April 27.
“The testing goes to the ADPH lab in Montgomery,” Terrell said. “ADPH has its own test kits, and results take three to four business days to return.”
To be tested, individuals must be 10 years old or older and exhibit moderate, severe or worsening signs of possible COVID-19 infection, including fever, cough or shortness of breath; a weak immune system and are age 65 or over, a healthcare worker or anyone associated with a long-term healthcare facility.
Testing is not recommended for those who do not show signs of COVID-19. Those who have mild symptoms and do not fall into one of the above high-risk groups are encouraged to self-isolate at home and call 1-888-264-2256 if their symptoms worsen.
For an appointment or to pre-register, call (251) 368-9188. A physician referral is preferred.