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Ivey weighs extending safer-at-home order for Alabama

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama’s “safer at home” order is set to expire Friday, and Gov. Kay Ivey has not yet decided whether to renew it.

The order limits social gatherings, requires employees of restaurants and other businesses to wear masks and encourages masking for anyone who goes out in public.

Its existence is uncertain even though there’s been a surge in COVID-19 cases recently. Alabama set and broke record highs for new confirmed cases in a single day repeatedly this month.

The Alabama Department of Public Health confirmed Saturday 888 new virus cases overnight, bringing the state’s 7-day average of daily new cases to a record 782.7. The previous high was 779, set on June 16.

The 888 new cases is tied for the fifth most in any one day since the start of the pandemic. The state now has reported 34,605 total coronavirus cases, with 18,866 of those reported to have recovered.

The state also reported 11 new deaths, bringing the total deaths due to coronavirus to 898.

Press Secretary Gina Maiola said Ivey is closely monitoring the situation along with Dr. Scott Harris, Alabama’s state health officer, reported.

“Governor Ivey and Dr. Harris continue closely monitoring the evolving COVID-19 situation and are aware of where our state currently stands with the virus,” Maiola said. “The Governor and our office routinely have discussions with Dr. Harris and the team at Public Health as we determine how to best move forward.”

With various updates throughout the spring, and with steady reopening of Alabama’s economy, it can be difficult to keep track of exactly what the current state order requires.

“I continue to get questions from businesses that clearly are not reading the governor’s health order,” said Dr. Rendi Murphree, an epidemiologist who is the director of the Mobile County Health Department’s Bureau of Disease Surveillance and Environmental Services, at a press conference in Mobile on Wednesday. “It states that anyone from a restaurant that interacts with the public shall wear a face covering. It’s not a suggestion. It’s an order.”

Maiola said the governor also continues to stress the need for personal responsibility. “If we do not take it upon ourselves to keep ourselves and others safe by taking smart health precautions, we cannot expect to make progress.”

Other states with large COVID spikes have begun implementing more restrictions, with Texas closing bars and Florida prohibiting the sale of alcohol at bars on Friday. But there has been little talk of more restrictive business closures from political leaders or health experts in Alabama.

“No one wants to go back to a societal lockdown,” said Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, an infectious disease expert at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “There are so many reasons we do need to get out. We need to get our kids back to school, we need to get people back to work. We need to get our economy functioning again.

“We can do that. But we just need to do it responsibly and in a way that doesn’t make people’s individual freedom feel compromised.”

Maiola said Ivey has faith in the people of Alabama to “be smart as we wade through this health crisis.”

“As Governor Ivey has said on-the-record multiple times, you cannot have a life without livelihood,” Maiola said. “She urges every Alabamian to do their part as we continually work to combat this virus and regain the footing and momentum we had just a few months ago.”

In Mobile this week, the epidemiologist with the county health department predicted the state order would be extended.

“This incredible rise of cases in Alabama, I doubt (Ivey) will lift the order,” Murphree said.

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