Governor, state health officer provide update on COVID-19

Alabama News

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey speaks during an interview at WHNT News 19, Monday April 2, 2018.

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Governor Kay Ivey and State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris are sharing an update on coronavirus in the state. They held a conference call that we were able to listen into, where they addressed reporter questions submitted in advance. Below is a minute-by-minute update on what was discussed.

Governor Ivey started the call by saying social distancing was the reason for doing this update in this format.

Is Alabama considering a statewide “Shelter in place”?
Ivey: We have no immediate plans to do so. We will continue to work with Dr. Harris and his team to make that decision if and when it’s the right thing to do with our stat.

There are also no plans to close state parks.

Dr. Harris: At this time there are 215 confirmed cases in the state. 53% male
On terms of is the public taking this seriously? Please cooperate with our social distancing guidance.

On Legislative Session: Governor Ivey’s team is constantly in touch with legislators. It’s hard to do budgets until we know what the income will be…which now won’t be until July (the deadline for state tax filing. No plans announced for legislative calendar changes.

How can we procure more masks and ventilators?
Dr. Harris: We have been preparing for this over the last couple of weeks. We have also been searching for resources in preparation for what we hope won’t happen here. Competing with every other state for materials.

Also on ventilators, Governor Ivey has been contacted by several companies within the state who are willing to help with ventilator supply, but it takes times for companies to adjust operations to make new products.

On job place gatherings being 25+:
Dr. Harris says the initial health order was never supposed to include the number of people within a workplace. He says he didn’t make that clear in his initial announcement … so they clarified on Friday. Harris also emphasized the importance of social distancing within companies when possible.

On Schools: Governor Ivey has been very impressed with how Dr. Mackey and his task force have handled everything. They will be speaking later this week to determine if they will keep schools closed longer.

Do local health departments have the authority to close businesses/restaurants as we’ve seen in Mobile area and Jefferson County?
Dr. Harris says the health officer for the county certainly has the authority to close businesses if they see it as the best way to keep their county safe.

Are there any concerns of any specific hospitals that may reach capacity quickly?
Dr. Harris didn’t want to mention any hospital by name, but he says they have identified some hospitals that are feeling capacity pressure. They are constantly keeping watch and have been working on a plan on how to deal with that possibility, including moving patients to other hospitals if needed.

What steps are being taken to protect those incarcerated?
Governor says at DOC, they have taken proactive and preventative measures to make sure inmates are safe. They have stopped visitors for 30 days and have also stopped all inmate transfers.

How many tests have been administered vs. processed?
We don’t have readily available how many tests have been available. It’s obviously easier for us to keep up with how many tests the state has administered. We don’t know, right now, how many private companies have done. We believe we will eventually be able to gather that information.

Are you concerned about other states not taking the pandemic seriously?
In the middle of a pandemic, traveling at all can put people at risk. Ivey understands people have to travel for personal and business reasons, but she hopes people will limit if possible.

Should the government be focused more on stopping the spread vs. a healthy economy?
Governor Ivey says it’s both — she says it’s all a balance that they are trying to find the right balance to keep as many people as possible safe while still keeping the economy going.

The federal government is looking into a stimulus for the entire country, are you considering anything similar on the state level?
Ivey: Keeping the economy moving is very important for us … but unlike the federal government, we can’t print money. Shelter in place would further hurt the economy. No plans for shelter in place.

What about President Trump’s claim that people should plan for disruption of normal life for weeks, not months? Dr. Harris said the President has the best information, but so much is unknown about the virus. He said next few weeks will tell how effectively we’ve been at stopping spread. It could be weeks, but it could be months.

Final thoughts from Dr. Harris: I plead with everyone to take this seriously … and do what you can to protect your family and friends, especially those who fall in a high-risk category. Please consider others in your communities. Urges people to stay healthy and safe.
We want to do this to also help protect our hospitals.

Governor Ivey final thoughts: I want to thank everyone for letting us get creative to keep social distancing while still giving an update. Also, don’t forget about the importance of donating blood. It’s also a particularly hard time for our restaurants, so let’s remember to support local and help the mom and pop shops. I also can’t forget to remind you how important it is to participate in the census. You can fill out the information on line.

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