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Pike County officials call for calm

Social distancing, offices closed to the public and extended tax deadlines all impacted residents of Pike County on Monday as officials worked to promote calm in the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The number of new coronavirus cases in Alabama jumped to nearly 200 Monday as health officials urged people to maintain social distancing and the governor extended the deadline for filing state income taxes until mid-summer.

Alabama on Monday had at least 197 confirmed cases of coronavirus, of which 86 were in Jefferson County. State Health Officer Scott Harris said at a news conference that the ages of those infected ranged from 2 to 97, and that about 6 percent to 7 percent of the cases had required the person to be hospitalized.

“The most important thing we want to do is encourage our citizens not to panic,” said Robin Sullivan, chairman of the Pike County Commission. Members heard updates of COVID-19 response from various local officials during Monday’s meeting.

“While the virus is very real and should be concerning, we don’t have to panic,” Sullivan said. “As of right now, we have not had any confirmed cases here in Pike County, which is good news.

“(County Administrator) McKenzie (Wilson) and I met with Sheriff Russell Thomas, Probate Judge Mike Bunn, Revenue Commissioner Curtis Blair and others today and we talked about what we need to do to continue to keep the courthouse operating and safe for the public and our employees.”

Sullivan said emphatically that county offices will remain open, “until someone shuts us down.” Bunn already has taken measures to enforce social distancing in the Probate office, allowing only one customer in at a time; providing gloves and protective equipment for employees; and creating a kiosk in the courthouse lobby to assist customers.

“We’re also encouraging people to take advantage of the services provided online,” Sullivan said. “You can do much of what you need to do online.”

As of Monday, Troy City Hall and the utilities department remained open to the public, but the Colley Senior Center; senior nutrition program; municipal court; public library; and parks and rec department were closed.

Brundidge City Hall is closed to the public as of Monday.

Brundidge Mayor Isabell Boyd said the closing includes the Brundidge Municipal Court.

“City personnel will continue to work to provide services as warranted to the public,” Boyd said. “Citizens may conduct business with the city at city hall using the drive through window.”

For further information and service, Brundidge citizens may call 735-2321, 735-2385 or 735-2887 (court).

All city parks are closed to the public at this time.

For assistance, citizens may also respond via email to: Britt Thomas at citymanager@troycable.net; Linda Faust at lindafaust@troycable.net; Wilma Price at Wilma@troycable.net; and Fay Terry at flavor@troycable.net.

Also, effective immediately, the City of Brundidge will not disconnect utility customers for non-payment. However, this will not negate penalties for late payment.

Customers who have not paid any bill rendered prior to the April 1 bill being delivered, will be subject to disconnect April 6. Customers are encouraged to pay their bills during this period, unless unable to do so.

The Tupper Lightfoot Memorial Library will continue to be open on limited basis. For further library information call 334-735-2145.

Boyd said everyone is encouraged to stay alert to the national and state guidelines issued and comply with them during this very serious time.

Pike County EMA Director Herb Reeves said a task force will begin weekly meetings starting today to address local issues related to the COVID-19 situation.

As for the statewide spread of the coronavirus, Harris said testing continues to be a concern in Alabama. He said the state now has 17 screening sites in addition to those set up by private labs.

“One of our continuing problems is locating specimen collection kits … These are being sought by every state in the country. As you know the states have been told we are on in terms of finding this equipment,” Harris said.

He cautioned people to remember that, “we do not need to test you if you do not have symptoms.” The state established a hotline, 1-800-270-7268 and an email address, covid19info@adph.state.al.us, for questions about testing availability and other issues related to the outbreak.

The state has closed all K-12 schools through April 5. Health officials have issued orders prohibiting on-site restaurant dining and non-work gatherings of more than 25 people that cannot maintain a consistent 6-foot (2-meter) distance between people. He said it is possible that those restrictions may continue past April 5, but it is too soon to tell.

“We are asking people to make a tremendous sacrifice. . .. For people who aren’t able to work right now — people in the food service industry for example— those people are really hurting, and we get that. We want them to get back to their normal lives as soon as we possibly can,” Harris said.

Health officials in Jefferson County, which has the highest number of cases, ordered the closure of nonessential businesses, including hair salons and many retail stores in a bid to stem the outbreak.

Gov. Kay Ivey announced that Alabama extended the filing deadline for state income taxes from April 15 to July 15 as the state tries to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Taxpayers will be able to defer state income tax payments until July without penalties or interest, regardless of the amount owed, Ivey’s office said. The deferment applies to all taxpayers, including individuals, trusts and estates, corporations and other non-corporate tax filers.

Ivey signed a supplement to the state of emergency order to grant the extension.

“It is imperative we reduce the burden upon Alabamians and get folks back on their feet financially. The safety and well-being of Alabamians is the paramount priority as we do everything within our power to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus,” Ivey said in a statement.

Revenue Commissioner Vernon Barnett said taxpayers who are owed refunds are urged, “to file as soon as possible and file electronically.”

The virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover.

Stacy Graning, Jaine Treadwell and the Associated Press contributed to this article.