Ivey orders close of childcare, on-site restaurant service

Published 1:54 pm Thursday, March 19, 2020

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Gov. Kay Ivey and the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) on Thursday issued a statewide health order to aid in Alabama’s efforts to contain the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

“Despite our best efforts, the threat of the COVID-19 virus continues to spread and, unfortunately, we have not yet reached peak impact,” Ivey said in a statement released Thursday. “The decision to place regulations upon Alabamians living in Jefferson County and its surrounding counties was an effort to contain the area in which the virus has been prevalent in our state. As of this morning, 68 individuals have tested positive for the Coronavirus in Alabama. While I am pleased that many of our citizens are self-regulating and are practicing social distancing, we want to ensure that Alabama is doing our part to flatten the curve.”

As part of the order, restaurants will no longer be able to serve patrons within the dining areas, although they remain able to serve customers through delivery, curbside pickup and drive-through options.

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Restaurants throughout Pike County have already been making changes to meet state guidance, and many had spaced tables six feet apart to abide by social distancing guidelines. Although indoor seating is no longer an option, many restaurants will remain open and offer other options for service.

Preschool and childcare centers are now closed as well, excluding childcare centers exclusively serving employees with state and local governments, fire responders, law enforcement, hospitals, nursing home and long-term care facilities, end-stage renal disease treatment centers, pharmacies and grocery stores.

Before the order came down, some childcare centers in the county were still planning to continue operations. Geoffrey Spann of First Baptist Church said the church’s Mother’s Day Out ministry had continued operations at about half capacity and with scheduling changes to limit interaction between children. The ministry will now have to cease, however, due to the order.

“We rely heavily upon our first responders and critical healthcare workers to help those who are ill, as well as essential state government employees to keep the continuity of government, and many of them struggle with dependent childcare if daycares close,” Ivey said. “As a result, I have asked the Alabama Department of Human Resources and the Alabama Department of Public Health to explore emergency rulemaking to make critical exemptions to allow for daycare to be provided for these areas of crucial personnel.”

Troy Regional Medical Center had already prepared to make the changes and is offering childcare to their employees.

“We were proactive knowing that schools were closing,” said CEO Rick Smith. “Yesterday at 3:30 p.m., most childcare followed suit of the schools and closed. We have a largely female workforce and a lot of those are women with children. And if both parents are still working, childcare becomes critical. So we started childcare on campus exclusively for team members to use. Four children were able to use the center today and we expect a couple more than that tomorrow.”

Under the order, all gatherings of 25 persons or more, or gatherings of any size that cannot maintain a consistent six-foot distance between persons, are prohibited. The order applies to all gatherings, events or activities that bring 25 or more persons in a single room or single space at the same time.

Pike County has already seen many events canceled throughout the area through voluntary compliance with state recommendations; the order makes the guidance enforceable by law.

All hospitals and nursing homes or long-term care facilities must now prohibit visitation of all visitors and non-essential health care personnel, except for certain compassionate care situations such as maternity and end-of-life.

TRMC had already limited visitation to one person per patient and had also limited visitation hours. With the new order, no visitors will be allowed for patients. Noble Manor and Troy Health and Rehab were already operating under the guidance before the order and will not need to make any adjustments.

All Alabama beaches are now closed. For clarification, the term “beach” means the sandy shoreline area abutting the Gulf of Mexico, whether privately or publicly owned, including beach access points.

All elective dental and medical procedures shall be delayed, effective immediately

The orders given by the state must be observed through April 5.

State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said the order can  and is even “likely” to be extended before that time. It can also be amended as needed.

“Sometimes the symptoms may take two weeks to show up; these actions will not affect the numbers we’re going to see over the next two weeks – those people are already infected,” Harris said. “This is undoubtedly going to affect the lives of real people. We’re trying not to overreact or impose hardship, but we have to protect the safety and health of all Alabamians. We’re making the best decisions we can with the best available date that we can.”