Dr. Scott Harris: No shutdown needed ‘if people can just follow the guidance that we have in place now’
Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris on Friday morning interviewed with Talk 99.5’s “Matt & Aunie Show.”
The head of the Alabama Department of Public Health discussed the current surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the Yellowhammer State, saying the current situation is “a lot worse” than what numbers had been over the past few months.
“I have a lot of concern about that as we get into flu season and then to the holidays,” Harris warned.
Co-host Matt Murphy then mentioned Governor Kay Ivey this week saying she has no plans to issue any new State Health Order that would shut down Alabama businesses. This came after a Business Council of Alabama-led coalition launched the Keep Alabama Open campaign, which quickly garnered the support of prominent elected officials in the state.
Murphy on Friday asked Harris how important it is that people across Alabama diligently follow the current Safer-at-Home health order, which is scheduled to run through December 11 and includes a statewide mask mandate.
“It’s really important, Matt,” Harris said. “There are only so many things we really have available to us at this point. We don’t have really effective medication [for coronavirus]. We don’t have our vaccine yet, although we hope to have it pretty soon. But the things that we can do, like wearing masks or washing your hands or just staying home when you’re sick, are really very powerful ways to prevent disease from spreading. And there’s not going to be any need for anything to be shut down if people can just follow the guidance that we have in place now. If you can stay home, it’s a good idea to do that. But if you have to be out, just try to stay away from people who aren’t in your own household, and wear a mask as often as is practicable to do that. Those very simple steps are enough to put an end to the pandemic, if only we could get everybody on board with that.”
The state health officer also discussed at length what the coming vaccine distribution process will look like. This came the same morning that Pfizer applied to the FDA for emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine after studies showed 95% efficacy.
Harris applauded the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed for accelerating the development and coming distribution of vaccines such as the Pfizer one.
“This is the amazing thing about this: the reason that this vaccine effort has happened so much more quickly than any vaccine effort in human history is because of a huge gamble that the federal government has taken — which I fully support,” Harris advised.
While vaccines could start reaching especially vulnerable populations as early as next month, Harris concluded the interview by stressing personal responsibility and the serious situation Alabama is in when it comes to the pandemic.
“I would just remind people to be careful this holiday season,” he remarked. “If you choose to get out and be around people, please do your best to protect those folks who are probably dearest to you — your parents and your grandparents, those folks who really [are especially vulnerable because of age to COVID-19]. We just encourage everybody to do their best.”
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn