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Alabama’s virus numbers rise as stores, other venues open

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama’s number of coronavirus cases continued to rise Saturday as some cities eased the restrictions that had been in place since the global crisis began.

As of Saturday evening, more than 7,600 cases of COVID-19 had been reported in the state according to state health data. Alabama’s death toll from the virus was at least 288.

Fairhope Pier in Baldwin County officially reopened Saturday, WKRG-TV reported

“I think it’s good, I can bring my wife and grandkids out just to see the water,” said Wayne Davis visiting the pier with his family.

“With all the people who love to come out here and enjoy the pier, I think that was a good idea,” said Davis.

As Alabama beaches close amid restrictions put in place to slow the virus’s spread, the pier had been one of the last large public spaces in the county to remain open.

“I mean they did what they had to do to keep things safe, I can’t complain about it,” said Charlie Hadley, who was also visiting the pier Saturday. “I was there from around 8 in the morning until about 9:30. During those hours it was easy to keep your social distance when there were few people to keep your distance from. A lot of people were expecting it to be busier before lunchtime on the first weekend of operations. The only noticeable change is a sign reminding walkers to stay 6 feet apart or more.”

The pier was among other venues that opened for the first time in weeks due to Gov. Kay Ivey’s “safer at home” order which allowed reopenings of some businesses in a limited way.

Wrapsody, a store in downtown Auburn, welcomed customers back inside on Friday, The Opelika Auburn News reported.

“It almost feels like a brand new store opening, honestly to us,” said Rachel Acosta, the store’s assistant store manager. “It’s been a great day.”

Fab’rik manager Kelsey Fuller said the wait to get back in the store has been difficult.

“This past month was just kind of crazy just having to wait, and wait, and wait to see when we’re going to be able to open up,” she said. “We were praying and wishing that May 1 would have been it, and then luckily it was.”

For many businesses, the biggest challenge during the downtime was missing the face-to-face interaction with customers.

“Our online business has done really well, but we don’t get that one-on-one customer experience,” said Chloe Floyd, manager at Behind the Glass.

Behind the Glass is requiring customers in the store to wear face masks and to stay 6 feet apart while shopping.

Fab’rik has had sanitizer located throughout the store as part of its added safety measures for customers.

Most downtown businesses said customer turnout was better than expected..

“As soon as we opened at 11 a.m., we had a good bit of customers come in and all of them were able to find something,” Fuller said.

Acosta said that Wrapsody is grateful for the community to be back out and supporting local stores.

“Ever since we’ve opened our doors, it’s been busy and everyone’s just been great showing their support here with us,” she said. “We really appreciate everyone’s that’s come and shopped with us even during the whole situation. It’s been a great day.”

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