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Alabama declares emergency, closes schools as virus found

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey declared a state of emergency Friday and closed public schools for two-and-a-half weeks as the state reported its first cases of coronavirus.

Posted: Mar 13, 2020 11:29 PM

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey declared a state of emergency Friday and closed public schools for two-and-a-half weeks as the state reported its first cases of coronavirus.

Ivey said all K-12 public schools will close after March 18 for a two-and-a-half-week break. Some schools were on spring break during part of this time.

“Folks, let's take a common-sense approach and remember calm and steady win the race," Ivey said in a news conference. "Alabamians should not be fearful but instead use common sense to watch out for ourselves and others."

The Alabama Department of Public Health listed on its website Friday that there were a total of six known coronavirus cases in Alabama.

“This is a very fast-moving situation. We are not surprised to have additional cases,” State Health Officer Scott Harris said.
The cases were reported in Montgomery, Jefferson, Limestone, Tuscaloosa and Elmore counties. Another case was listed as out of town.

Harris said no cases have been linked to schools, but temporary school closures are a “great proactive step to slow the speed of transmission in a community."

Superintendent Eric Mackey said they tried to give parents notice of the school closings so parents could make childcare arrangements. The schools will not have to make up those days since a state of emergency has been declared, Mackey said.

Mackey said the target is for schools to reopen on April 6, but they will evaluate the situation in late March. He said they are getting a federal waiver to try to continue to provide meals at high-poverty schools. He said they are working on details.

“On a case-by-case basis, as much as possible, we will continue food service," Mackey said.

Private schools will make their own decisions about closures.

The Alabama Department of Public Health recommended that people cancel or avoid large public gatherings with more than 500 people. Harris also said people should stay about 6 feet (1.8 meters) apart from others in public.

“Be smart about hygiene, about covering your cough, washing your hands and please stay home if you are sick," Harris said.
Alabama was one of the last states to report a case. The state lab began testing last week, Harris said.

State labs as of Thursday had only tested about 50 people for coronavirus, all of which were previously negative.

Harris said testing at the state lab was initially limited to priority cases where people were considered most at risk because of travel to another country or because they were seriously ill. He said testing criteria has now been liberalized and the state will test a person when a doctor recommends it. Private labs are also doing testing, he said.

“As we ramp up our testing capacity, we are starting to find these cases just like surrounding states," Harris said.

The Department of Public Health is establishing a call center beginning Saturday morning for people to get information about testing and whether should seek it. The number is 1-888-264-2256.

To try to limit the spread of the virus, cities and counties rushed to cancel public events, and large universities announced a temporary switch to online classes.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said the March 31 primary runoff will go on as planned. His office announced Friday that “voters who are concerned about contracting or spreading an illness or have an infirmity may vote by absentee." The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot is March 26.

Alabama law requires absentee voters to affirm that they are sick, out of town, working a long shift or infirm when they request a absentee. Merrill said Friday that voters “should list the reason that they feel is appropriate for them."

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. More than 5,000 deaths worldwide have been attributed to the virus.

Major universities, including the University of Alabama, Auburn University, Troy University and other institutions on Thursday announced a shift to online classes.

The state's two-year college system said it will temporarily discontinue on-campus instruction at 23 institutions from March 17 through April 3. Many schools had scheduled spring break during that time.

Alabama Chief Justice Tom Parker told presiding judges in judicial circuits that they have the authority to postpone jury trials next week if they believe it is needed.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 338079

Reported Deaths: 7523
CountyCasesDeaths
Hinds23409440
DeSoto23069280
Harrison20064328
Rankin15119290
Jackson14743251
Madison10806227
Lee10568179
Jones8864169
Forrest8408159
Lauderdale7684243
Lowndes6917151
Lamar683789
Lafayette6502124
Washington5551139
Pearl River5060150
Bolivar4923134
Oktibbeha484798
Panola4739112
Warren4690127
Marshall4670106
Pontotoc442873
Monroe4293137
Union429179
Neshoba4232181
Hancock417788
Lincoln4148116
Pike3605113
Leflore3587125
Tate351488
Alcorn346474
Sunflower344994
Adams338488
Scott336676
Yazoo335673
Simpson319290
Copiah319068
Itawamba312480
Coahoma311585
Tippah300568
Prentiss295063
Covington287183
Marion281780
Leake281575
Wayne274643
Grenada267588
George266251
Newton258964
Tishomingo238070
Winston236284
Jasper227548
Attala223373
Stone219437
Chickasaw217560
Holmes197674
Clay194654
Clarke184480
Tallahatchie182742
Calhoun179432
Smith177535
Yalobusha170240
Walthall144448
Lawrence140026
Greene137634
Amite135643
Noxubee134235
Perry132438
Montgomery131544
Carroll125431
Webster119132
Jefferson Davis114234
Tunica113227
Benton105925
Claiborne104831
Kemper101429
Humphreys99833
Franklin86723
Quitman84319
Choctaw81819
Wilkinson76532
Jefferson70428
Sharkey51618
Issaquena1736
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 574737

Reported Deaths: 11492
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson839571589
Mobile46611857
Madison36938532
Tuscaloosa26841465
Shelby26769255
Montgomery25853624
Baldwin24213326
Lee16897181
Calhoun15210332
Morgan14990289
Etowah14721369
Marshall12855235
Houston11661292
Elmore10727217
St. Clair10587250
Limestone10535158
Cullman10323204
Lauderdale10044253
DeKalb9335191
Talladega8797187
Walker7659286
Autauga7456114
Jackson7295117
Blount7233139
Colbert6614142
Coffee6117131
Dale5393117
Russell467742
Chilton4666117
Covington4623125
Franklin447281
Tallapoosa4420157
Escambia425282
Chambers3880125
Dallas3707163
Clarke366462
Marion3413106
Pike326979
Lawrence3211101
Winston293972
Bibb282965
Geneva274283
Marengo259067
Barbour245161
Pickens239662
Butler237672
Hale232378
Fayette225064
Henry206645
Randolph196144
Monroe195041
Cherokee194548
Washington179339
Macon168352
Crenshaw165058
Clay163659
Cleburne159945
Lamar149738
Lowndes144854
Wilcox129831
Bullock126042
Conecuh119530
Coosa116729
Perry109928
Sumter108732
Greene98336
Choctaw63925
Out of AL00
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Thursday will be another very hot and very humid day across Mississippi and Alabama. Many areas will be well above 100 degrees with the heat index, some even as high as 120 degrees in the Delta of Mississippi.
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