62.5 F
Mobile
59 F
Huntsville
59.4 F
Birmingham
59.1 F
Montgomery

Ivey announces initial phase of plan to reopen Alabama’s economy

MONTGOMERY – Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday announced her plan to reopen Alabama’s economy in careful phases over the upcoming weeks.

Speaking at a press conference in the state capitol, Ivey announced that some retailers will be able to reopen as of Thursday, April 30 at 5:00 p.m. CT, but only if they institute safety precautions such as only allowing 50% of normal capacity inside the premises.

Restaurants will not be able to reopen their dining rooms until at least May 15, according to the governor’s new order.

You can read that “Safer At Home” order here.

Close contact services such as barbershops and nail salons will still be closed.

Beaches will be able to reopen effective April 30 at 5:00 p.m. with restrictions on gatherings of over 10 people as well as social distancing requirements.

The new order will also allow elective medical procedures to begin again as of 5:00 p.m. on April 30.

Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris joined Ivey for the press conference, along with executive committee members of her coronavirus task force. Harris and the governor urged Alabamians to wear face masks when out in public or with non-household members.

You can view further guidance from the Alabama Department of Public Health on beaches here.

General non-work gatherings of 10 or more people will still be prohibited until at least May 15. Gyms and entertainment venues continue to be closed until at least that date.

The new order replaces the current “stay-at-home” order, which expires April 30 at 5:00 p.m.

UPDATE 12:50 p.m.

Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth released a statement upon the conclusion of Ivey’s press conference:

I thank Gov. Kay Ivey for beginning to implement the recommendations of our Small Business Commission and for starting the process to ‘Reopen Alabama Responsibly.’

Thousands of small business owners and employees across the state will feel relief as they open their doors for business once again, but, like all of us, they will need to use strict social distancing guidelines, safety precautions, and simple common sense.

Hospitals in both urban and rural areas have suffered deep financial losses over the past several weeks, and resuming elective surgeries will offer them a much-needed lifeline.

And because tourism is so important to Alabama’s Gulf Coast economy, opening the beaches while enforcing social distancing rules provides a ray of hope that the summer season will be a profitable one for the area.

I look forward to implementing the next phase of recommendations and allowing even more employers and workers to resume their business operations.

I will continue working closely with Gov. Ivey to safely and responsibly reopen Alabama and appreciate her leadership during this difficult and unprecedented time.

UPDATE 2:45 p.m.

Ivey said this is the “first phase of a multi-phase reopening of our state.”

“The threat of COVID-19 is not over,” warned Ivey.

“We are still seeing virus spread, and all our people are susceptible to infection,” she added.

“We must continue to be vigilant in our social distancing, both today, and for the foreseeable future,” the governor urged.

Dr. Harris remarked, “It is very reasonable for us to begin a gradual opening like this.”

“People certainly do need to return to work, and we want to make that as safe as we possibly can do,” added Harris.

He relayed that both Alabama’s total number of coronavirus cases and the number of deaths have both stayed flat recently.

Alabama’s hospitals have adequate supplies of beds and ventilators according to Harris.

“We have met two of the three gating criteria,” Harris said of the White House guidelines for reopening the economy.

The criteria that relate to symptoms and hospital capacity have been met according to Harris, but Alabama has not yet had the 14-day sustained decline in cases suggested by the White House.

“I haven’t talked to any of my fellow governors from neighboring states about this order,” Ivey said when asked towards the end of the press conference.

Ivey was also asked what the state planned to do to businesses that open in defiance of the order.

“If there are violations they are subject to a $500 fine. … I encourage them to rethink that strategy,” replied Ivey.

According to Harris, the Alabama Department of Public Health continues to do all it can to ramp up contact tracing, the technique of finding where infected patients have gone in public.

THIS IS BREAKING NEWS AND WILL BE UPDATED

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@new-yhn.local or on Twitter @HenryThornton95