Auburn Villager

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has issued a "Safer at Home" health order that will begin reopening Alabama's economy and businesses on a limited basis. 

The order takes the place of the Stay at Home order that Ivey issued earlier this month and that expires Thursday. 

The Safer at Home order goes into effect at 5 p.m. Thursday and expires on May 15.

It "encourages" people to stay home and follow good hygiene practices; allows retail stores to reopen with 50 percent occupancy; opens Alabama's beaches; and allows elective medical procedures; among other directives.

Many measures of the Stay at Home order remain in place, including limiting non-work gatherings to fewer than 10 people, and limiting restaurants, bars and breweries to take-out, curbside or delivery. Entertainment venues, like night clubs, movie theaters and bowling alleys are also still closed. 

The new health order requires employers to protect their employees through a number of steps, including avoiding gatherings of 10 employees or more; maintaining six feet of separation between employees; regularly disinfecting frequently used items and surfaces; encouraging handwashing; preventing employees who are sick from coming into contact with other persons; facilitating remote working arrangements; and minimizing employee travel.

Ivey cited the effectiveness of the Stay at Home order and citizens' adherence to social distancing guidelines as a reason for rolling back the restrictions, although she noted that the state is still seeing a rise in the number of coronavirus cases. 

"The threat of Covid-19 is not over," she said. "We're still seeing the virus spread."

State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said the state's case numbers and deaths attributed to Covid-19 are "relatively flat" and not rising as before. He also said the state has no shortage of ventilators. 

Ivey said the state will abide by the recommendations of the White House and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about when and how to lift restrictions, although Alabama has not yet met the criteria to move to the phased comeback, as new cases in the state haven't declined for 14 days.

"We have met two of three gating criteria," said Harris. "We have yet to meet the 14-day sustained decline. For that reason, we are not moving to a full phase-one opening."

The White House's guidelines for reopening the economy can be found at www.whitehouse.gov/openingamerica/#guidelines. 

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