The Choctaw County Commission has voted to extend the closure of the courthouse to the public until April 20 to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
In a special meeting on Thursday, Probate Judge Michael Armistead and members of the commission discussed options to continue with the closure, which has been in place since March 27. At that time, the commission had voted to close the facility until April 6.
Choctaw County Emergency Management Director Tyler Davidson gave an overview of the county’s current number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, stating that the number now stands at four.
As of Thursday morning, the state is reporting 1,116 cases, with 17 confirmed deaths, Davidson said.
A total of 32 deaths are being reported in the state, but the Alabama Department of Public Health is listing confirmations that 17 of those deaths have been confirmed as COVID-19-related.
“We were on a briefing with public health and the state EMA yesterday afternoon, and they’ve given us some projections,” Davidson said. “Based on the current rate of spread, public health is projecting April 22 to be Alabama’s peak.”
“We need to follow the state health officer’s guidance and follow the governor’s guidance,” he said. “That’s our projected date right now. It’s said that if we don’t follow the guidance, it could be much longer for this.”
Davidson said that those orders include requirements for social distancing, non-work gatherings, and non-essential closure orders set down by the governor on March 27.
Davidson also reminded the commission about the upcoming ADPH testing site, to be held from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Friday, April 3, at the Choctaw County Health Department. Testing is by appointment only, and only those with symptoms will be tested.
Residents can call 205-459-4026 for information or to set up an appointment.
Davidson said that the numbers of available tests are limited, and residents will not be tested if they do not have symptoms.
(NO ONE WILL BE TESTED WITHOUT AN APPOINTMENT)
Commissioner Tony Cherry said that he had questions about issues regarding testing.
“Is this criteria the same criteria they’ve had before – a certain temperature, fever and things of that nature?” Cherry asked. “Do they still have to go to the doctor’s office, or can they go down to the health department?”
“They need to have either a doctor’s request or they can contact the health department and get an appointment,” Davidson said.
Davidson repeated that residents with symptoms should CONTACT the health department before coming to the testing site.
“They are also asking that, if you are not showing symptoms, do not just show up to see what’s going on,” Armistead added.
Authorities will be on hand for traffic control at the site, if needed, Davidson said.
Armistead said that, in addition to the availability of testing at the ADPH site on Friday, those who have symptoms can also call their physicians to find out about possible testing.
NOTE: RESIDENTS WITH SYMPTOMS SHOULD CALL THEIR DOCTORS FIRST before showing up at clinics or emergency rooms.
Commissioner Budd Ruffin asked about the provision of supplies for local healthcare workers.
“We went to the distribution site in Robertsdale yesterday and picked up our last shipment from the Alabama Department of Public Health. “It was a large shipment designated for the hospital, nursing home, and EMS.”
Davidson added that he had participated in a conference call on Wednesday with state EMA and will now be routing supply requests through them.
“Our 3rd request has been put in for first responders, and we are waiting on that.” Davidson said.
Armistead clarified that the first shipments were earmarked for healthcare workers. Davidson said that he had put requests in twice already for first responders and is waiting on those requests to be filled.
Armistead said that there had been misinformation out there that they were not providing supplies, but the supplies that have been provided have been designated for healthcare workers and EMS only.
Cherry said that he was still concerned about the criteria for testing.
“I think we need to flood the media to get this information out there about testing, because if people want to go to the doctor to try to get in the doctor today, that’s all they have,” Cherry said. “Many people don’t know about it, so we need to get that information out there, so they can set up an appointment to get down and get tested.
Cherry said that, in his opinion, the criteria for testing is too high.
“It’s wrong for our county to have to meet criteria, and people in Jefferson County and these large counties can just go in and get tested,” he explained.
“I’m very confident that we have expressed our concerns to the state and that’s why they are going to be here tomorrow,” Armistead said. “The tests that they are doing tomorrow are limited. So there is not an infinite amount of tests that they can administer tomorrow.”
“Something is better than nothing, but we are continuing to ask for more,” Armistead said.
Davidson said that the information is being put out through a variety of platforms including the Choctaw Sun-Advocate, the EMA app, social media, and through contacts with local partnering organizations.
Armistead repeated that the EMA app has provided continuing information, along with ongoing information disseminated by The Choctaw Sun-Advocate.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the commission voted unanimously to extend the closure of the courthouse. Armistead reiterated that offices are being staffed by essential personnel and those offices are available to the public by telephone. The public can access the offices and handle needed issues by calling the following numbers:
Courthouse main number — 205-459-2100
Probate Office — 205-459-2414
Circuit Clerk — 205-459-2155
Revenue Commissioner — 205-459-3359
Board of Registrars — 205-459-2531
Absentee Ballot Manager — 205-459-6968
Sheriff’s Office — 205-459-2166.