MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Alabama State Health Officer Scott Harris said in his briefing Thursday afternoon that the Governor’s broad health order, which bans gatherings of 25 or more people, also applies to the workplace.
“We did not specifically address that for workplaces. The order does apply to them,” Harris said in response to a question about the health order. “Workplaces will need to find a way to maintain social distancing even if it involves having different numbers of people spread across larger spaces or in a larger number of rooms then before. Gatherings of 25 or more are prohibited. Any gatherings are prohibited if they cannot maintain the appropriate distance.”
Clearly, that would have major implications around the state and communities like Huntsville, with numerous large employers.
But it wasn’t the last word.
Alabama Department of Public Health spokeswoman Arrol Sheehan sent out a “clarifying statement” nearly three hours after Harris’s press conference.
“ADPH is working to provide clarifying information in regards to today’s order, particularly the provision on social gatherings and its applicability to employers. Further clarification will be provided on Friday, March 20, 2020,” the statement said.
About 10 minutes later, Gov. Kay Ivey’s office sent out its own statement, promising more details Friday.
“I am working with Dr. Harris to bring clarity and provide further information regarding today’s order on social distancing and the impact upon our workforce,” Ivey said. “My intent is to keep the Alabama economy moving, and I will do everything to ensure this happens.”
The six-feet of distancing rule, if enforced, is sure to present challenges to many employers, particularly in manufacturing facilities.
At the same time, Dr. Harris stressed the health order was necessary to protect the public from facing a more serious spread of the virus like officials have watched unfold in the state of Washington and Italy.
It’s an enormously complicated balancing act, with details being worked out during a pandemic.