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Kay Kirkland/Special Projects Coordinator
Mayor William E. Cooper asked local non-essential businesses to comply with the closure orders issued by Gov. Kay Ivey this morning, but to remain optimistic that the steps taken to combat the spread of COVID-19 will be effective quickly, allowing life and business operation to return to normal soon.
“I know this will place a significant hardship on many of our businesses, but state officials have determined this order is the in the best interest of the state’s residents, and compliance is mandatory,” the Mayor said. “My hope is that conditions will improve so that this state-issued mandate can be relaxed or rescinded sooner rather than later, but we need to remain calm and follow the rule of law until this ordeal passes.”
Wiregrass Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Jonathan Tullos agreed.
He said the WEDC and city leaders recognize the difficulties and challenges this state order presents to businesses, no matter the length of time the businesses must stay closed.
“It’s tough,” he said. “This is going to affect our businesses significantly, and some may not be able to recover. No one wants to see our businesses have to face this crisis, but the Governor and the state health officials are working to try to balance the economics with the health interests of the public.”
Some agencies and programs are already offering assistance to businesses struggling because of the Coronavirus crisis, he said. “We are standing by and are ready to assist you in getting some relief,” Tullos said.
The Governor and State Health Officer Scott Harris have ordered all non-essential businesses - including clothing stores, jewelry and shoe stores, hair salons, barbershops, tattoo shops, department stores, etc. - to close Saturday at 5 p.m. and remain closed until April 17. The complete order is attached at the bottom of this press release, or you can go to https://governor.alabama.gov/assets/2020/03/Amended-Statewide-Social-Distancing-SHO-Order-3.27.2020-FINAL.pdf and read the resolution in its entirety.
The city has no authority to make exceptions to this order, said City Attorney Rainer Cotter, and Cooper assured that the city has no plans to place any restrictions on businesses beyond what the state has issued.
Cooper said he believes it is also in the best interest of the people of Enterprise.
“We have been blessed here in Enterprise and Coffee County that we have not had any confirmed cases of the Coronavirus at this time,” he said. “It is likely that we may have some cases before this crisis has run its course, but it is wise that we all stand together against this health threat to minimize the number of illnesses and certainly, deaths.”
Like Cooper, other officials in the county believe the local area will begin to see virus cases soon, and they all are working with the state health leaders to try to reduce the local impact.
In Alabama, the number of confirmed cases of Coronavirus has risen to 587 since March 13, when the first case was diagnosed. As of this afternoon, the Alabama Department of Public Health is reporting three deaths thus far attributed to the virus.
Cooper said he has been hearing reports of citizens, businesses, churches and other establishments who are doing their part and complying with the health recommendations and directives issued in recent weeks. Those include frequent washing to hands, social distancing and cancellation or postponement of gatherings of 10 people or more. Today, the Governor’s order prohibits non-work gatherings of 10 or more and meetings of any kind where people cannot maintain a 6-foot distance from each other.
“I am proud of the way our citizens are coping with this thus far,” Cooper said. “The majority seem to be following guidelines and I know that they will comply with these or any other recommendations.”
Cooper said Enterprise is a city of citizens who care about each other. He and Tullos said the past week or so has proved that again, as patrons continue to support restaurants that have resorted to take-out and curbside service only as a result of the March 19 state order that on-premises dining is prohibited.
Some businesses, such as restaurants, had been on the closure list earlier, and Tullos said he has been impressed with the innovative way many are continuing to do business.
“They’ve showed us some ways to be creative while continuing to comply with the health safety regulations,” he said.
Tullos said Enterprise is a city that has known adversity, as the celebrated downtown monument, the Boll Weevil Monument, demonstrates. The city has bounced back from pestilence, fires, hurricanes and tornadoes.
“I have confidence in the people of Enterprise. This truly highlights the best of us,” he said.”
Businesses that qualify are expected to receive some funding from the $2.2 trillion stimulus package passed by Congress Friday.
Tullos said business owners can contact the Small Business Administration and other agencies about help that is available to their affected business. The WEDC stands ready to help connect businesses to agencies and programs that offer assistance.
Some contacts in addition to the SBA and Department of Labor include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Council of Alabama and the Alabama Retail Association. Tullos also recommended contacting your accountant, banker and attorney to discuss projections and solutions.
ORDER OF THE STATE HEALTH OFFICER SUSPENDING CERTAIN PUBLIC GATHERINGS DUE TO RISK OF INFECTION BY COVID-19
(APPLICABLE STATEWIDE) AMENDED MARCH 27, 2020
WHEREAS, Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) has been detected in Alabama; and
WHEREAS, the appearance of COVID-19 in the State poses the potential of widespread exposure to an infectious agent that poses significant risk of substantial harm to a large number of people; and
WHEREAS, the State Board of Health has designated COVID-19 to be a disease of epidemic potential, a threat to the health and welfare of the public, or otherwise of public health importance; and
WHEREAS, on March 13, 2020, on recommendation of the State Health Officer, Kay Ivey, Governor of the State of Alabama, declared a state public health emergency exists in the State of Alabama; and
WHEREAS, on March 16, 2020, the Jefferson County Health Officer, in response to a rapidly growing number of cases of COVID-19 being detected in Jefferson County, issued an order suspending certain public gatherings in that county; and
WHEREAS, on March 17, 2020, the State Health Officer issued a similar order for counties surrounding Jefferson, including Blount, St. Clair, Shelby, Tuscaloosa, and Walker Counties, and
WHEREAS, on March 19, 2020, the State Health Officer issued an order, and on March 20, 2020, an amended order, of statewide application suspending certain public gatherings;
WHEREAS, further social distancing measures are necessary to be implemented on a statewide basis to prevent the spread of COVID-19; and
WHEREAS, Ala. Code § 22-2-2(4), authorizes the State Health Officer, on behalf of the State Board of Health, to direct that conditions prejudicial to health in public places within the State be abated;
NOW THEREFORE, THESE PREMISES CONSIDERED, it is ordered that the following be implemented statewide:
1. Effective March 28, 2020 at 5:00 P.M., all non-work related gatherings of 10 persons or more, or non-work related gatherings of any size that cannot maintain a consistent six-foot distance between persons, are prohibited. Employers shall take all reasonable steps to meet these standards for employees and customers.
2. Effective March 28, 2020 at 5:00 P.M., the following “non-essential” businesses, venues, and activities shall be closed to non-employees or not take place:
d. Retail stores as follows:
3. Effective March 19, 2020, at 5:00 P.M., all beaches shall be closed. For purposes of this section, the term “beach” means the sandy shoreline area abutting the Gulf of Mexico, whether privately or publicly owned, including beach access points.
4. Effective Friday, March 20, 2020, all regular programs at Senior Citizen Centers shall be ended except that Senior Citizen Centers and their partners are urged to assure that their clients continue to receive needed meals via curbside pick-up or delivery.
5. Effective today, the following shall be closed:
a. In-person instruction or classes at all schools, public and private, including but not limited to: elementary, secondary, postsecondary, technical, or specialty schools, and colleges and universities.
(1) This order is not intended to prevent any employers from making continued necessary staffing decisions. Employers are authorized to advise employees to work from home or maintain flexible work schedules. If working from home is not feasible, the employee should practice social distancing (by maintaining consistent six-foot distance between persons) and follow public health guidelines.
(2) This order shall not apply to daytime special activities programs provided by local boards of education for children, ages 6 through 12 as of March 13, 2020, of First Responders (including EMS and Fire Services) and Licensed Healthcare Providers, and their essential employees, and essential employees of the following categories of employers: State and Local Governments, Law Enforcement, Hospitals, Nursing Home/Long Term Care Facilities (including Assisted Living and Specialty Care Assisted Living Facilities), End Stage Renal Disease Treatment Centers, Pharmacies, and Grocery Stores. In these special activities programs, 12 or more children shall not be allowed in any one room at the same time, and operators of these programs are encouraged to use enhanced sanitation practices consistent with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Alabama Department of Public Health.
b. Facilities providing child day care, including any child day care facility described in Ala. Code § 38-7-2, at which 12 or more children are in a room or other enclosed or separated space at the same time. Center employees are encouraged to use enhanced sanitation and social- distancing practices consistent with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Alabama Department of Public Health. This Order does not change the Minimum Standards for Day Care promulgated by the Alabama Department of Human Resources, except that 12 or more children shall not be allowed in a room or other enclosed or separated space at the same time.
6. Effective immediately, all Hospitals and Nursing Home/Long Term Care Facilities (including Assisted Living and Specialty Care Assisted Living Facilities) shall prohibit visitation of all visitors, as defined by the facility, and non-essential health care personnel, except for certain compassionate care situations such as maternity and end-of-life.
7. Effective March 28, 2020 at 5:00 P.M., all dental, medical, or surgical procedures shall be postponed until further notice, subject to the following exceptions:
a. Dental, medical, or surgical procedures necessary to treat an emergency medical condition. For purposes of this order, “emergency medical condition” is defined as a medical condition manifesting itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain, psychiatric disturbances, and/or symptoms of substance abuse) such that the absence of immediate medical attention could reasonably be expected by a person’s licensed medical provider to result in placing the health of the person in serious jeopardy or causing serious impairment to bodily functions or serious dysfunction of bodily organs.
b. Dental, medical, or surgical procedures necessary to avoid serious harm from an underlying condition or disease, or necessary as part of a patient’s ongoing and active treatment.
8. Effective March 19, 2020, at 5:00 P.M., all restaurants, bars, breweries, or similar establishments shall not permit on-premises consumption of food or drink.
a. Such establishments may continue to offer food for take-out or delivery provided the social distancing protocols, including maintaining a consistent six-foot distance between persons, are followed.
b. Such establishments are strongly encouraged to offer online ordering and curbside pick-up of food.
c. Hospital food service areas are excluded from this order provided they have their own social distancing plan.
9. If organizers or sponsors of otherwise suspended events desire, they may submit a request for an exemption from this order. While the State Health Officer is under no obligation to grant such an exemption, it shall be fairly considered based on the following criteria:
a. Effective measures have been taken to identify those attending the event who may potentially be affected with COVID-19, including but not limited to personal testing for the disease or submission of current medical clearances to the organizer.
b. Effective measures have been taken to prevent the spread of infection even by those that are infected while not symptomatic, including the provision of anti-infection measures such as proper face masks, personal sanitation measures, and other measures that may be considered proper.
The State Health Officer’s discretion under this section includes the discretion to refer exemption requests from Jefferson and Mobile Counties to the respective County Health Officer for those counties for evaluation as described above.
10. This Order shall remain in full force and effect until 5:00 P.M. on April 17, 2020. Prior to 5:00 P.M. on April 17, 2020, a determination shall be made whether to extend this Order—or, if circumstances permit, to relax this Order.
11. This Order supersedes and preempts all orders previously issued by the State Health Officer and Jefferson and Mobile County Health Officers concerning COVID-19 mitigation measures. After the date this amended order is issued, the Jefferson and Mobile County Health Officers are authorized, after approval by the State Health Officer, to implement more stringent measures as local circumstances require.
Done on this 27th day of March, 2020.
Scott Harris, M.D., M.P.H. State Health Officer