MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Confirmed coronavirus infections in Alabama topped 1,500 on Saturday as residents statewide were placed under an emergency order requiring them to stay home as much as possible.
Republican Gov. Kay Ivey's order took effect at 5 p.m. Saturday and were scheduled to last until at least April 30, with an extension possible. Ivey said Friday she felt compelled to require people across Alabama to shelter at home as cases of the new virus continued to rise and too many people ignored calls to isolate voluntarily.
The Alabama Department of Public Health announced Saturday that 43 deaths have been reported in the state and 26 of them have been confirmed as being linked to the new virus.
The emergency order allows people to leave home to get medicine, health care, food and other essentials. It also allows church services, weddings and funerals as long as long fewer than 10 people are present and they stay at least 6 feet (2 meters) apart.
Auburn Mayor Ron Anders said he supports the governor's action, the Opelika-Auburn News reported.
“This is going to be frustrating for some, it’s going to be cumbersome to some,” Anders said. “It is a removal of our liberties and our freedoms. But the reality is, we’re in a health crisis and for us to get past this health crisis we’ve got to take some stronger measures."
In Stapleton, Kristi Hicks is recovering at home after she developed symptoms and was tested for COVID-19 at a Mobile clinic last week. The results came back positive, and Hicks has isolated herself in a bedroom away from her husband and children.
Hicks told WKRG-TV that others need to realize anyone can become infected.
“It doesn’t care who you are, how much you clean, how many times you wash your hands, if you work in healthcare, if you don’t," Hicks said. "I mean it’s out there.”
The governor's stay-home order allows for outdoor exercise, as well as trips to care for other people or pets. Visiting relatives is also OK as long as social distancing guidelines are followed.
The order requires that anyone testing positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, must quarantine at home for two weeks. Grocery stores and other retailers must operate at half their normal capacity.
Violators could be charged with a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of as much as $500 per offense, according to state Attorney General Steve Marshall.
The virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, for most people. 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.
Ivey had already closed public schools, banned non-work gatherings of 10 or more people, limited restaurants to takeout or delivery orders and shut down businesses including entertainment venues, fitness centers and salons.
Her decision to impose a shelter-at-home order came soon after Republican governors in Florida, Mississippi and Georgia who had also resisted such statewide orders reversed course and issued similar directives.