BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – The Birmingham City Council unanimously passed an ordinance that orders all residents in Birmingham to shelter in place.
As of March 24, 2020, Alabama has 242 identified cases of coronavirus, including 91 in Jefferson County. Because of the clear and present danger this virus presents to the community, “all persons shall remain in their places of residence and shall not be or remain in public places,” the ordinance reads.
The order does not apply to first responders, utilities contractors/employees, people seeking essential services such as groceries or medicine, federal, state, county or city employees. According to the ordinance, all nonessential businesses must comply with the new restrictions. However, it will not affect anyone’s ability to report to work at businesses that are permitted to remain open, utilize curbside pickup for restaurants, grocery stores, or go to medical appointments. The ordinance does not add any businesses to the list of nonessential lists of businesses that have been ordered to close by the Jefferson County Department of Health.
There are also provisions within the public safety ordinance that allow for some exceptions. People may lawfully leave their homes while this ordinance is in effect to engage in the following activities: outdoor activities that do not involve physical contact with others (walking, biking, hiking), care for a family member or pets, providing goods and services or work necessary to build, operate, maintain or manufacture essential infrastructure.
Failure to comply with this ordinance is punishable by the general penalty provided in Sec. 1-1-6 of the General Code of the City of Birmingham.
Councilor Hunter Williams, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, said it is important for residents to shelter in place and limit social interactions. “We are in the middle of a global health crisis,” Williams said. “This was not an easy decision because we understand it will have an impact on our local economy. A lot of thought and consideration went into this decision by city leaders and health officials. We believe that these measures will help flatten the curve and avoid a situation where our hospitals are overburdened with patients who need treatment.”
This decision is the result of an ongoing partnership between the Mayor’s administration, public health officials and the City Council.
The shelter-in-place order shall remain in effect until 12:00 p.m. on April 3, unless it is “determined that the emergency conditions no longer exist prior to that date but may be extended if the duration of the emergency conditions continues beyond that date,” according to the ordinance.
City leaders say there is a 24 hour grace period so that everyone can adjust.