JACKSON COUNTY, Ala. – Many on Sand Mountain have reached out to us about several businesses staying open during the COVID-19 pandemic despite the stay at home order issued by Governor Kay Ivey.
“It was pretty much wide open. There’s really not closure of very many businesses. Small businesses have closed, like beauticians, and things where there’s a few people working, but the plants are all still considered essential,” explained Jackson County Sheriff Chuck Phillips
There are more than 80 local industries in Jackson County according to the Economic Development Authority.
“Who decides what is essential, I don’t know. To the average citizen out here, there’s a lot of places that’s working today that they don’t think are essential, and I may even think they’re not essential, but that’s not my call,” said Phillips.
The governor’s stay at home order is in effect until April 30, but Phillips said more may need to be done to better flatten the curve.
Phillips told WHNT News 19 that he has been asked by others
“A curfew may help, more closures definitely would help but that’s not my call. The governor’s got to do that and it’s got to be statewide thing, not just for one area. They have info coming into them that I don’t have and the power to make the call,” said Phillips.
WHNT News 19 has gotten dozens of complaints from residents about Maples Industries staying open and not enforcing CDC safety recommendations. Maples Industries is the largest employer in Jackson County.
Company president John Maples tells us they are doing everything they can to keep employees healthy, including increased cleaning in all departments, mandatory hand washing at the start of every shift and after breaks, and adjusting work stations, break rooms and other areas to implement social distancing recommendations as best they can.
Maples told WHNT News 19 that employees do not have to come to work during the crisis if they are concerned for themselves or their loved one.
He added that there is no risk of losing their jobs for not coming to work as long as they let company leaders know in a timely basis.
Maples said by law, they can only put employees on temporary layoff if there is no work for them. If an employee is put on temporary layoff, Maples Industries will file their unemployment forms for them.
Further, the company has temporarily waived the payment of all medical insurance premiums until this crises passes.