With the number of those hospitalized at EAMC with Covid-19 waning over the past week, Mayor Ron Anders voiced his opinion at Tuesday's City Council meeting that Auburn is now ready to open up all businesses still restricted by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey's Safer at Home health order.
As part of the Big 10 Mayors group, which represents Alabama's 10 largest cities, Anders and nine other mayors sent a letter to Ivey on April 28 that called for a timeline on reopening businesses like restaurants, barber shops and beauty parlors, which were not part of the governor's easing of restrictions when her Stay at Home order expired at the end of April. Ivey's current Safer at Home order expires May 15.
"It was our concern that these people are the folks who have a lot at risk," said Anders. "They're suffering the most right now, their resources are the most limited. And we asked for a plan to get them back open with accountability. None of us were asking for anything to be done recklessly or without safety being a concern."
Ivey did allow the reopening of retail stores with some restrictions, including operating at half-capacity. Anders said restaurants could also reopen while adhering to safety measures and that he has exchanged multiple communications with Ivey's staff and that he thinks considerations are now being discussed to ease more of the restrictions.
"Today, it 's obvious to me that many of our small businesses and small restaurants in our community need to be open, and it's my sense that where Auburn is as a community, when you look at the trend-lines on the infections and what we're seeing in our town, I believe that the time is now for Auburn to have the rest of our businesses be open. Folks are suffering; they're not being able to work," he said. "It's my belief, that with safety and accountability and restrictions and certainly hygiene as proper practice, that I trust our community to go back to work and do the right thing. We are a free country — nobody has to go out to a restaurant if they don't want; they don't have to go to a business if they don't feel safe. Everybody has a prerogative to do that, but the ones that want to be open, that feel the need to be open, I feel it's time for those people to be open."
As of Tuesday, the number of those hospitalized at EAMC and EAMC-Lanier with confirmed cases of Covid-19 had fallen to 32, marking a six-day decline. EAMC had 44 people hospitalized with confirmed cases on April 30. EAMC has a combined 41 hospitalizations of patients with confirmed and pending cases of Covid-19. The number of patients with confirmed cases of Covid-19 on ventilators, now at eight, has stayed relatively the same since mid-April.
Since the start of the outbreak in Alabama, Lee County has had 410 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with 30 deaths, as of Thursday morning.
Statewide, Alabama is approaching 8,700 confirmed Covid-19 cases, with 347deaths.
Despite the promising trend lines for EAMC and Lee County, EAMC is asking for residents to remain vigilant, practice good hand hygiene and social distancing and to wear masks in public.