HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Saturday will mark one week since Alabama Governor Kay Ivey ordered all close contact retailers, venues, and service businesses to close. WHNT News 19 has received dozens of calls and emails from employees working at construction sites and manufacturing operations and other jobs concerned about having to report to work, or working without property distancing or sanitation options during the pandemic. Dr. Karen Landers from the Alabama Department of Public Health offered some guidance.
“What I would encourage employees to do, as well as employers — and we’ve gotten a lot of requests from employers for additional information and we have provided that through the Alabama Department of Public Health — but at this time, with employees, I would recommend that obviously they continue to review the policies of their business, to work with their business,” Landers said. “But if they see an unsafe situation or unsafe environment, again, if they cannot get satisfaction in working with their employer, then they need to report that.”
Landers recommended people email the health department, but if necessary, to contact law enforcement. EMA Director Jeff Birdwell advised Madison County residents to instead call their office.
“The process we have come up with is we don’t want you notifying law enforcement. Please forward all that to our office at EMA and we will determine which jurisdiction is responsible for that,” Birdwell said. “We will forward that to the right agency. You know, just like with a lot of these businesses, the focus is going to be identify, notify and educate. That’s really, probably the biggest problem. A lot of people are not familiar and don’t know exactly what they’re supposed to do.”
Landers said the hospitalization rate in the state for coronavirus patients is at 15 percent. She said it is important to follow the order and directives in place to reduce the spread.
David Jernigan, Chief of Police for the City of Madison, said the department has made changes such as suspending in-person training, closing their lobby and prioritizing calls for service.
“We have somebody that takes calls over the phone. If you have a bicycle that’s stolen, we’re not going to send an officer to that call,” Jernigan said. “We’re going to take that call by telephone, give you an event number, a case number, let you follow up with insurance then a detective will be able to reach out to you a little bit later.”
Jernigan added that dispatchers will encourage drivers to exchange information during minor traffic accidents.
The jail population is down about 20 percent, Jernigan said. He added judges have cooperated with helping them release some nonviolent offenders. They are also implementing a new policy when it comes to booking inmates.
“When an inmate is brought in to jail, all three agencies are masking the inmate after they’ve been handcuffed. That’s protection for the officer, also protection for the jail when they go into intake,” Jernigan said. “Their temperatures are taken first initially and then they’re placed in segregation then 48 hours later their temperature is taken a second time. If those end up being good numbers. they’ll go ahead and release them to general population.”
Madison Mayor Paul Finley said schools are ready for distance learning to come Monday and asked for people to be patient with educators.