Alabama is nine days away from the expiration of Governor Kay Ivey’s public health order.
More businesses reopened this week. Others have offered pleas for the opportunity to reopen. And the legal fabric of Ivey’s order may have begun to unravel.
Alabama’s largest mall reopened. The Riverchase Galleria in Hoover welcomed back shoppers on Tuesday. Customers could be seen in footage from WBRC milling about as they normally would — except many wore masks. Similar to other shopping centers, some of the large national chains with out-of-state corporate management have, so far, declined to open at the Galleria. One store which did open was High Mountain Outfitters. Its manager, Jeff Jones, told WBRC, “We’ve been getting so many phone calls from customers, they’re ready.” Jones noted his store requires the use of masks and is frequently disinfecting common areas and any items which customers try on.
“Let us open.” CrossFit Trussville owner Andrew Rape made an impassioned plea to Ivey to allow his gym, and others like it, to reopen. In a video posted on Facebook, Rape invited the governor to view first-hand how his gym could safely conduct business. Making a compelling case, he explained that CrossFit is by nature a well-coordinated effort which could easily accommodate the necessary spacing and sanitizing for operation. Rape further outlined that CrossFit instructors, because classes tend to involve 10 or less participants, would be in a position to monitor the health of small groups. He pointed out that physical fitness is one of the ways in which immune systems are strengthened.
Rape called the regulations issued by the state “seemingly arbitrary” based upon the selection of businesses which were permitted to open versus those still forced to shutter. Initially, the Ivey administration had said it would simply follow the White House guidelines. Upon announcing the new public health order on April 28, State Health Officer Scott Harris declared the state would not follow the guidelines set out under the White House’s Opening America plan. This has led to frustration from business owners, like Rape, for whom the reopening criteria is unclear. He concluded, “So for my staff, my members, my community, and my family’s sake, let us open.”
Legality and enforcement of health order questioned. On Tuesday, Attorney General Steve Marshall proclaimed that the enforcement of Ivey’s public health order against churches would be “ill-advised” on constitutional grounds. Earlier in the day, Baldwin County Sheriff Hoss Mack announced his department would not enforce the order against businesses or churches. Baldwin County has a population of approximately 225,000 with a fairly diverse economy reliant upon tourism, agriculture and small business. In addition, Mack is one of the more influential and popular local officials in the state. Last week, the City of Fairhope, located in Baldwin County, politely asked Ivey to rescind her public health order and adopt Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth’s 150-page plan for reopening.
Other sheriffs joining Mack in declining to enforce the order have included those from Blount, Lamar and Marshall Counties.
Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia