During a conference call with the media on Tuesday, March 24, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey multiple times emphasized that there were no plans to enact a “shelter-in-place” order statewide amid the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.
Ivey and Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) Officer Dr. Scott Harris answered submitted questions from members of the media for about 30 minutes on the conference call and touched on a number of subjects, but Ivey made sure to reiterate the need for businesses to stay open in the state throughout the call.
“Folks, at this point, we have no current plans (for a shelter-in-place order),” she said. “We have seen other states in the country doing that as well as other countries.
But however, y’all, we are not California, we’re not New York and we aren’t even Louisiana. Alabama will continue to work in consultation with Dr. Harris and his team and we’ll make that decision if and when it’s best for our state but as for now, we’re not planning to issue that (order).”
Ivey said that her priority was to keep the economy in the state going.
“We must do everything we can to keep businesses open and if they are closed get them back open as soon as possible,” Ivey emphasized. “The safety and well-being of Alabamaians is paramount, however, I agree with President (Donald) Trump who thinks a healthy and vital economy is just as essential to our quality of life.
“Manufacturers and business owners are producing the medicines, the protective health equipment and the food we need. It’s a balance and we’re trying to strike the appropriate balance as we move forward.”
As national legislatures discuss a federal stimulus package, Ivey addressed whether she was looking at a statewide stimulus, as well.
“That is obviously something we would talk over with my team, the finance director and legislative leadership, but unlike the federal government, y’all, we can’t print money,” she said. “In the past decade we have made it a priority to not spend more than the state has collected. The answer to this question is dependent on the economy and the economic forecast.
“There again, it’s about keeping Alabama businesses open and running. If we enact a shelter-in-place it will further impact our economy. These are all things we are weighing out. So, we certainly do not have plans for a shelter-in-place.”
Ivey also addressed concerns over the treatment and care of current inmates in the state.
“The Alabama Department of Corrections (DOC) has been working closely with my Coronavirus Task Force and with public health (officials) and other disease specialists to prepare and prevent the spread (inside prisons),” Ivey said. “At the DOC they have been taking preventative and proactive measures.
“All inmates in custody will continue to be provided with the services for which they are entitled and the DOC has stopped all visitations for 30 days, all inmate copays have been suspended for 60 days and all inmate transfers between facilities have been cancelled.”
Another point of emphasis for Ivey was discussion over whether “no-excuse absentee voting” should be allowed amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
“At this time I would not advocate for a legislative change to allow that to happen,” Ivey said. “In a state-of-emergency the Secretary of State can adopt an emergency amend rule related to absentee voting. Anyone concerned with the virus can select a box and the box is called ‘I am ill or have an infirmity.’
“My thought is that if anyone can submit an absentee vote without a valid reason it raises the potential for voter fraud and, y’all, in the middle of a public health crisis we don’t need to open that up and add extra problems to our plate.”
Harris said that roughly 10 percent of people that have been tested in Alabama have tested positive for COVID-19 and “about 8-9 percent” of those patients have been hospitalized. Harris emphasized the need for testing only those that are symptomatic because of the lack of testing available in the state currently.
“People that do not have symptoms do not need to be tested,” Harris said. “It’s not because there aren’t asymptomatic people that can test positive. It’s because, given the test capacity we have, we want to test those people that are most likely to be positive so that we are most able to get useful information on that.”
Harris also said that the ADPH was “working hard” to find health supplies from all available sources and said that the state has received two shipments of personal protective equipment from a national stockpile from the federal government.
“We are continuing to try to source it from any place we can, although every other state is doing the same thing,” Harris said.
Ivey did not comment on what plans for schools in the state are but according to The Montgomery Advertiser, Alabama Superintendent Eric Mackey will be meeting with Ivey today and Mackey anticipates announcing a decision on whether schools will stay closed on March 26.
All questions for the conference call were submitted prior to the call and follow up questions were not allowed.