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Posted on: April 28, 2020

Mayor supports plan to reopen businesses, And urges citizens to maintain safety practices

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City of Enterprise

April 28, 2020

Mayor William E. Cooper expressed support Tuesday for local retail businesses given the go-ahead to reopen later this week, but he also appealed to Enterprise area citizens not to abandon the safety practices helping to protect them from the COVID-19 virus.

Cooper met with City department heads and business-related leaders Tuesday to listen to Gov. Kay Ivey’s press conference, where she announced the first phase of a plan to restart the state’s economy. The Governor eased some of the restrictions put into place April 3 in an effort to stem the spread of the Coronavirus statewide.

“This is encouraging news from Gov. Ivey,” Cooper said. “But even though we are moving forward with reopening, we must remember that this virus threat is far from over. We have to take personal responsibility to keep from spreading this virus.”

As of 2 p.m. Tuesday, Coffee County had 100 confirmed cases of the virus. However, no COVID-19 deaths have been confirmed in the county.

The Mayor asked everyone to be patient and uphold the new orders until the state’s economy can recover and return to full speed, which he hopes will be sooner rather than later. He also anticipates that if the state’s Coronavirus case numbers, and Coffee County’s, level off or begin to decline, the Governor will further lift restrictions on businesses and other activities. Ivey indicated she will be working with the Alabama Department of Public Health to make that determination in the coming days and weeks.

In her announcement, Ivey dropped the state safety orders from the more restrictive “Stay-at-Home” status to a new “Safer at Home” order,” which allows for the reopening of retail stores, subject to certain conditions. Store owners must implement strict sanitation rules, and require 6-foot social distancing between customers, not to exceed 50-percent occupancy, including employees.

Fire Chief Byron Herring offered assistance from the Fire Department if store owners or managers need help determining the occupancy load or distancing plan. Call 334-348-2640 for assistance.

“We are all trying to do what’s best for the community. This is a process, and we are trying to balance the personal health of our community with its economic health,” Cooper said.

A new mantra, he suggested, might be “Staying Safe, while Open for Business.”

However, under the new orders, restaurants, bars, nail salons, tattoo parlors, athletic events, entertainment venues and others will remain closed at least through May 15, when the new order expires. Restaurants can still offer take-out, curbside and delivery services. The restrictions also apply to athletic events and church services. Churches may conduct drive-in services as long as attendees remain in their vehicles and the 6-foot rule is adhered to.

Ivey’s announcement was met by business leaders with a degree of relief, but also with concerns for how the businesses will implement safety measures for employees and customers.
“I think I can say that the downtown businesses are cautiously optimistic,” said Chad Wester, vice president of the Downtown Business Association and owner of Boll Weevil Soap Co.

Wester said he will be able to implement the safety rules in his store, but he suggested that increased signage and social media coverage is needed to help make customers aware of the safety rules.

Enterprise Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Erin Grantham said the Chamber has been in close contact with businesses during the shutdown period. She said many are looking forward to reopening soon.

“All of the business owners in favor of reopening have said they are agreeable to taking reasonable measures to comply with sanitation and social distancing guidelines,” she said. “Our small businesses have had a drastic decline in revenue, which has placed a heavy burden on many. The loss of income has placed some in jeopardy of not being able to reopen at all.”

Cooper said he is saddened by the strife the health crisis has caused everyone, including the suffering of the sick and those who have lost loved ones, as well as the financial stress caused to business owners.

He is grateful, however, for the spirit of community and compassion that many individuals and organizations have demonstrated. Local businesses who have persevered through the shutdown by starting curbside services and other creative marketing tools are to be admired, he said.

“Our community has rallied to support our local businesses, but they still need our help” Cooper said. “Just as we must be diligent about safety, we must continue to support our local businesses, especially those who cannot open their doors right now.”

For the retail stores, the service agencies and businesses, close-contact businesses, churches and all other entities dealing with the crisis, Cooper expressed encouragement.

“I ask you as citizens to continue to shop local, and to support these businesses, churches and agencies,” the Mayor said. He offered suggestions to include making future reservations, buying gift cards and tipping online as helpful measures to assist them until they can officially reopen their doors.

“This city has been known for coming together in the face of adversity. “When this is over, I believe we can look forward to a rebirth.”

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