At a news conference on Tuesday, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced the extension of the current Safer at Home health order through the end of July, but did not take any new substantive action to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, despite roughly 29 percent of the state's confirmed cases coming in the last two weeks.
The Safer at Home order is now set to expire at 5 p.m. on July 31.
As of Wednesday morning, Alabama has had 38,442 confirmed cases and 947 deaths attributed to Covid-19, with upwards of 10,700 confirmed cases coming in the last 14 days. Lee County has also seen a surge in new cases, with 412, or about 35 percent, of the county's 1,189 total cases coming the last two weeks.
Some experts attribute at least some of the rise in cases to people celebrating during the Memorial Day weekend, which is a cause for concern as people prepare to gather for the July 4th weekend.
"While I love to celebrate our great nation's birthday as much as anyone, it does not mean that social distancing should not apply, even at the beach, even at the lake, even when you're out with your friends. If we continue going in the wrong direction and our hospitals are not able to handle the capacity, then we're going to reserve the right to come back and reverse course."
Reversing course could include issuing another Stay at Home order, which temporarily shuttered many businesses and closed beaches during April. Hospitals in the state are currently not being overwhelmed, although hospitalizations at East Alabama Medical Center have ticked upward over the last week, from 16 on June 18 to 22 as of Tuesday.
Ivey implored Alabama citizens to adhere to social distancing guidelines, practice good personal hygiene and wear masks in public.
Auburn legends Bo Jackson and Charles Barkley joined Ivey in encouraging the wearing of masks in videos released this week. Auburn Mayor Ron Anders also released a video asking for residents to wear masks.
"We're learning how to live with this disease and need to continue to do what we need to do to avoid another stay-at-home order," said Ivey. "That means to maintain six-foot social distancing, to stay at home unless you just must get out to go to work or for a necessity, and when you're in public, for goodness sake, wear a mask. Y'all, Dr. (Scott) Harris and I can order you to wear a mask, but it would be next to impossible to enforce. But you know, you shouldn't have to order somebody to do what is just in your own best interest and that of the folks that you care about — your family, friends and neighbors.
"Personal responsibility means it's everyone's responsibility. Personal responsibility also extends to the store manager, the owner, the hair stylist, the restaurateur, youth sports coach and pastors. It takes us all to be vigilant and adhering to these social distancing guidelines in order to stop the spread of this deadly disease."
The Alabama Department of Public Health also rolled out a color-coded health guidance system this week to help guide health behaviors for individuals and businesses. The system and explanation of risk categories can be found at www.alabamapublichealth.gov/covid19/guidance.html.
Lee County is currently listed in the "very high-risk category."