MONTGOMERY – “April promises to be a very deadly month in our state,” Gov. Kay Ivey said in news conference Friday afternoon. “This is an imminent threat to our way of life, and you need to understand that we are past urging people to stay at home. It is now the law.”
In a joint press conference with State Health Officer Scott Harris and Attorney General Steve Marshall, Gov. Ivey issued a mandatory ‘shelter-in-place’ order for Alabama, effective Saturday, April 4, at 5 p.m. through April 30 and could be extended following that date, if necessary. The order requires all Alabama residents to remain in their homes, except for certain designated exceptions.
Ivey said that she had waited to place the strict order because she wanted to find the right balance, to look after people’s health without government “choking the life out of business and commerce.”
Ivey said that the state is seeing increasing numbers of positive tests every day, with 160 new positive cases yesterday and likely a greater number today. At least 34 people in Alabama have died, even one as young as 36 years of age, Ivey said.
“Folks, we need to extend our health orders now,” she said. “Over 200 healthcare workers are already infected, and those people will be unable to work in the next couple of weeks. There are also outbreaks in several nursing homes.”
Ivey discussed previous actions taken by her administration, including orders to close non-essential businesses and limit gatherings to 10 individuals, with a 6-feet social distancing rule.
“Today I’m convinced that our actions have not been enough,” Ivey said. “My friends, I remind you of all this because Dr. Harris and I have tried to do everything we knew to do to keep from taking this strong measure, but late yesterday afternoon it became obvious that something else has to be done.”
Ivey said that for each of the last two days, the U.S. has had over 1,000 deaths – twice the number of flu-related deaths usually seen in one day.
The order will include exceptions such as traveling to work at an essential business, to purchase groceries, medicines, gas, materials for long-distance learning or other education-related purposes, supplies for pets, take-out food orders, or to care for someone else who cannot care for themselves.
(SEE ENTIRE ORDER AT THE LINK BELOW)
Stores still in operation will be required to institute more stringent rules to limit the numbers of customers shopping at any one time. Essential retailers must only allow maximum occupancy of no more than 50% of the occupancy allowed by the fire marshal.
“If they don’t, there will be consequences,” Ivey said.
Businesses and organizations that provide essential services will also be excluded from the order.
“Staying at home is for your own good and for the well-being of the ones you love,” Ivey said, adding that the virus is not just impacting older Alabamians.
“The median age of those being impacted is now 49,” she said. “No one is immune to this.”
“We’ve got to take this order DEADLY serious,” she added. “Otherwise, it is a fact that more people will die.”
Ivey quoted Isaiah 41:10: “Do not fear for I am with you. Do not be dismayed for I am your God, I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous hand.”
“Now is the time to be strong,” she said. “Now is the time to be together, Alabama, even if we stand 6 feet apart.”
Following Ivey’s remarks, Dr. Harris added that the default position for everyone is that they need to stay at home.
“We’ve spent a lot of time working with other states who have gone through this before us and crafted an order that is compassionate for people, yet provides safety and protection for the health of the people in our state,” Harris said. “We really need the people of Alabama to pay attention. It may save your life, or the life of someone you care about.”
Attorney General Steve Marshall said that the order is an emergency rule of the Department of Public Health and carries the full weight of the law. He added that the order can be criminally enforced.
Violators can be charged with a misdemeanor and face fines up to $500.
“It is my hope that all of Alabama will hear me when I say this – that these laws do not have to be enforced criminally against any individual or business,” he said. “We are hoping for willful compliance.”
He added that law enforcement officers are risking their lives and want to exercise restraint in enforcing the order. However, if there are violations that are deemed to be a threat to public safety, the law will be in effect.
“The law is available as an enforcement tool for communities,” Marshall said.