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Alabama reopening met with mix of relief, concern

By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press

Alabama’s dine-in restaurants, bars, salons and gyms prepped to reopen Monday as the state eases restrictions during the continuing coronavirus pandemic.

The state is lifting restrictions on nonwork gatherings of 10 or more people beginning Monday. Businesses including restaurants, hair salons, bars, breweries and gymnasiums can reopen with rules including increased cleaning, crowd limits and, in some cases, the use of face masks.

Christy DellÁria, the owner of In the Loop Hair Studio in Montgomery, Alabama, said she was looking forward to reopening, but said some clients had already been driving to Georgia where salons opened sooner.

“I’m excited to be behind the chair again but also scared because a lot of our clients drove to Georgia for their colors and it will be at least four more weeks before we see them. The next month is still going to be a struggle,” DellÁria said.

DellÁria at first voluntarily closed her salon in March for 15 days — to do her part to try to curb the spread of coronavirus — and then the state ordered all close contact businesses to close. She estimated she could only go another month shut down before losing her business all together.

She said it had been frustrating that big box stores have remained open and busy.

“I go into Wal-Mart or Lowes, there are hundreds of people. When you walk into those places you don’t feel any different, like anything has changed. I try to get butter and there are six people around me, no masks whatever,” she said.

More than 450,000 Alabamians have applied for unemployment since the pandemic began.

Some have expressed concern over the reopening.

“It scares me. It seriously scares me,” Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton said Saturday.

Singleton expressed concern about testing capacity in the state and the safety of workers.

“If you don’t go to work, you will not get a paycheck, or you will be fired. We got to make sure employers are doing the right thing to keep our people safe,” Singleton said.

Alabama on Sunday had more than 9,600 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and was approaching 400 deaths from the illness.

State Health Officer Scott Harris said Friday that caseloads have been “a little higher” in recent days, but officials are trying to determine how much of the change was linked to increased testing or increased disease.

Virus cases have risen by 2,000 since the state loosened some restrictions 10 days ago, lifting a stay-home order and allowing retail stores to open with occupancy limits.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness including pneumonia, and death. The vast majority of people recover.

The governor on Friday emphasized that people should continue to use caution even as more places reopen.

“I know full well that I sound like a broken record, but friends, I can’t say this more clearly: The threat of COVID-19 continues to exist. It is truly deadly, and it must be addressed,” Ivey said.

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