Shops, stores reopen doors
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
As the COVID-19 pandemic curve continued this week to flatten and even head downward, a semblance of normalcy has begun to return as Atmore’s economic community struggles to reassert itself.
Emily Wilson, executive director for Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce, said the city’s shops and stores, especially those in the downtown area, have begun to show signs of life again, unlocking doors and cautiously welcoming customers inside.
“Atmore is again open for business,” said Wilson, who noted that each re-opened store or shop is striving to meet social distancing and occupancy limits. “Most of the businesses are now open in some capacity, and those that are not, we anticipate their reopening very soon.
“Though everyone was more than ready to open their doors, we are confident that every business is being diligent about complying with all suggested protocols and precautions necessary to ensure the safety of all patrons.”
Although Gov. Kay Ivey announced last week that restaurants could begin accepting inside diners (with distancing and occupancy rules in place), only six are known to have started serving meals within the walls of their respective establishments.
An informal survey revealed that David’s Catfish House, Gather, Anchor Café, Waffle House, 30 Below and The Coffee House are serving food to sit-down guests. Buster’s Restaurant and Dixie Catfish Shack each plan to re-open June 1, while uncertainty remains as to if and when Chen’s, Whistle Stop Café and others will re-open.
“Obviously, we as a community want to ensure (that) we proceed with caution as we reopen,” Wilson said. “I think most of us feel it’s our obligation to our community. But as much as that, our obligation now more than ever is to remember that shopping local matters. The Chamber and business owners throughout our community are all celebrating as we begin to reopen, recover and rediscover Atmore.”
No new cases
According to Alabama Department of Health and Escambia County Healthcare Authority, no new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed since the bi-weekly report issued May 15.
A total of 39 Escambia County residents have fallen victim to the virus, including three who have died.
According to ADPH, 905 county residents have been tested for the novel coronavirus, with 866 negative results. Sixteen samples, nine from Atmore Community Hospital and seven from D.W. McMillian Memorial Hospital, are pending the results of lab tests.
Preaching, praying inside
At least four of the city’s largest churches — First Assembly of God, First Baptist and Grace Fellowship — have resumed indoor services. Last Sunday (May 17), St. Robert Bellarmine Catholic Church held its first indoor mass since the pandemic’s restrictions were put into place.
Courts back in session
Judge Dave Jordan, presiding judge for Escambia County Circuit Court, announced last week that the Alabama Supreme Court’s has approved the resumption of in-person hearings in Circuit, District and Juvenile courts.
Social distancing will be observed, although clients and their attorneys will be allowed to sit close enough that they can confer “out of earshot” of others. Chairs in Courthouse 2 of the main courthouse have been removed, while several in Courtroom 1 have had blue tape affixed to them to indicate that they are not to be used.
For questions about a particular scheduled court appearance, call the Circuit Clerk’s Office at 867-0225.
Masks in the lobby
United Bank officials began allowing expanded access to the lobby of the bank’s main (Nashville Avenue) branch on Monday (May 18), with limitations on capacity and modified hours.
UB officials said customers must wear masks when inside the lobby, and hand sanitizer is available to all customers. The first hour of the bank’s open lobby will be reserved for senior citizens and high-risk individuals.
First National Bank & Trust has still not opened its lobbies to customers, except by appointment, but drive-through services resumed recently at the bank’s Lindbergh Avenue branch.
David Landa, president of Alto Products, announced that the company was able to acquire surgical masks for its employees, leaving on hand a quantity of masks that the company had recently produced.
“We are fortunate to have some masks left over that we are in a position to donate,” Landa said.
Any organization or individual needing masks should email the company at firstname.lastname@example.org to check on the availability.
Making it count
The U.S. Census Bureau will begin to drop off 2020 Census questionnaire packets at front doors of households in Atmore and elsewhere in Alabama this week. The info drops will be conducted in areas where the majority of households do not receive mail at their physical address.
The Census Bureau began hand-delivering census materials on March 15 but suspended all fieldwork for this operation on March 18 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Temporary field staff have been trained to observe all social distancing protocols and will wear official government-provided personal protective equipment for their safety and the safety of the public.