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Guidelines that allow bars, restaurants, gyms and salons to reopen to the public on Monday are being met with caution and concern in Pike County.

Guidelines that allow bars, restaurants, gyms and salons to reopen to the public on Monday are being met with caution and concern in Pike County.

Melanie Ross, owner of Mel’s Master Salon and Studio responded, to Gov. Kay Ivey’s Friday announcement directive with mixed feelings.

“My phone has been blowing up, but I don’t want to open until I can ensure the safety of my clients,” Ross said. “That is what is most important in all of this.”

The new public health order announced by the governor on Friday takes effect Monday, May 11 and is in effect until May 15. A

Under the new order, Alabama’s dine-in restaurants, bars, salons and gyms will be allowed to reopen with limits. Social distancing rules remain in place, and businesses will be required to protect both customers and workers, officials said.

The state will lift restrictions on nonwork gatherings of 10 or more people, Ivey said. Businesses including restaurants, hair salons, bars, breweries and gymnasiums can reopen with rules including increased cleaning, crowd limits and, in some cases, the use of face masks. The rules will allow more churches to resume regular services, but entertainment venues including movie theaters and bowling alleys must remain closed, and youth sports teams are still barred from playing.

Reopening businesses will allow “additional people to go back to work,” said Ivey, who has with met with pressure to relax state rules meant to stem the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. But the disease remains a real problem, she told a Capitol news conference.

“I know full well that I sound like a broken record, but friends, I can’t say this more clearly: The threat of COVID-19 continues to exist. It is truly deadly and it must be addressed,” Ivey said.

As of  6 p.m. Friday, Alabama had 9, 375 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 383 reported deaths. Pike County had 87 confirmed cases, with no reported deaths.

Troy Mayor Jason Reeves said city hall will reopen to the public on Monday, as will the Troy Public Library and the Troy Recreation Center, with restrictions in place.

“We are going to very cautiously open on Monday in regards to our lobbies, the library and the recreation center,” he said. “The Colley Senior Complex will remain closed, but the nutrition center will be providing curbside pickup on meals.”

McKenzie Wilson, Pike County administrator, said commissioners will discuss a reopening schedule for county offices during their meeting on Monday. “We are trying to make sure we are ready for our employees’ and the public’s safety,” she said.

Reeves said the city will abide by the health order, keeping public playgrounds closed; restricting the use of shared sports equipment such as basketball, and likely enforcing restrictions on the use of the swimming pool areas.

At City Hall, the lobby will be open to the public, but Reeves said he encourages the public to continue to use the drive-up windows, online portals and phone calls for as much city business as possible.

“Masks are not required (for the public) but we will require them to do social distancing,” he said. “Of course, people of a certain age and with certain health conditions are encouraged to wear masks, according to the health order.”

Reeves said he understands concerns about the reopening – both from the perspective of business owners and the general public. “(The business owners) need the opportunity to make a living and I think they can function responsibly, and that is what I expect to happen,” he said. “As for the public, the more the state opens up, the more careful we need to be.”

He said people have to be responsible for their own health and continue to take the precautions outlined by the health experts. “We’re going to be living with COVID-19 for a while, and we’ve got to start moving forward in a cautious way … we cannot get reckless, but we cannot hide out in our closets, either.” 

For salon owners like Ross, she worries about safety of both her employees and customers.

Ross said beauty salons always operate under strict sanitation and sterilization regulations. However, those regulations don’t dictate social distancing.  “We work closely with our clients but we will do all we can to protect them and us,” she said.

Ross said she will be working with two-thirds of her staff. At least one staff member had decided not to work out of concern for COVID-19. “It’s good to be able to open, but we have to make sure that we do it the right way and the as safely as possible,” she said.

Bo Lankford, owner of Julia’s Restaurant, said he and his wife Natalie are considering whether reopening the restaurant at 50 percent capacity would be cost effective.

“We would have to bring back employees and there’s the decision as to which ones to bring back,” Lankford said. But a main concern is the changes that will be necessary in serving our customers.

“We are basically a buffet restaurant and we don’t know what the response from our customers will be. We will need to look at whether people will come to a buffet as they did or, if we’ll have to look at another way of serving. Right now, we just don’t know. We have more questions than answers.”

Amy Chandler, owner of The Old Barn Restaurant in Goshen, is admittedly “nervous.”

“We are going to take every precaution possible with reopening but still it’s scary because there’s so much to consider,” Chandler said. “We don’t know what the response of our customers will be. If we have more people than we can seat, we don’t want people to get  agitated. We don’t know how much food to order, a big truck or a little truck. We don’t want to bring back six waiters and have only two tables. There’s more that we don’t know than we know.”

Chandler said extra precautions will be taken with the re-opening — throw-away menus, extra masks, hand sanitizer. “Just anything we can do to keep our  customers and employees safe,” she said.

The Rev. Ed Shirley, pastor of Brundidge United Methodist Church said churches in  the Alabama West Florida Conference will follow the instructions of the Conference leadership and not open for services until June 7.

“Even at that time, we will take the necessary precautions to keep our membership safe,” Shirley said. “For anybody to get sick because we didn’t take the necessary precautions would be a terrible thing.”

Shirley said when the doors of the church are opened, there will be no choir because of the closeness of the members. Social distancing will be practiced, doors will be opened for safe entering and exiting, offering plates will not be passed and other preventive measures will be taken. Restrictions will be relaxed gradually.

The Rev. Ed Shirley, pastor of Brundidge United Methodist Church said churches in  the Alabama West Florida Conference will follow the instructions of the Conference leadership and not open for services until June 7.

“Even at that time, we will take the necessary precautions to keep our membership safe,” Shirley said. “For anybody to get sick because we didn’t take the necessary precautions would be a terrible thing.”

Shirley said when the doors of the church are opened, there will be no choir because of the closeness of the members. Social distancing will be practiced, doors will be opened for safe entering and exiting, offering plates will not be passed and other preventive measures will be taken. Restrictions will be relaxed gradually.