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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 11:11 PM
Updated: 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.

Confirmed Cases: 27900

Reported Deaths: 1082
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds211139
DeSoto131115
Madison120634
Jones106149
Neshoba95268
Lauderdale87978
Rankin81612
Forrest79842
Scott74215
Harrison7198
Copiah56214
Leake54719
Holmes52040
Wayne51511
Jackson50516
Oktibbeha48324
Lee47716
Leflore46948
Yazoo4676
Washington4659
Lowndes44411
Lincoln43434
Warren42517
Lamar4077
Grenada3675
Pike35612
Monroe35529
Attala35023
Lafayette3394
Newton3289
Covington2905
Sunflower2806
Adams26318
Bolivar26113
Chickasaw25418
Panola2546
Jasper2456
Noxubee2458
Tate2457
Clay24010
Marion24011
Winston2405
Pearl River23932
Pontotoc2314
Claiborne22810
Simpson2183
Smith20411
Clarke19824
Marshall1963
Coahoma1836
Kemper17413
Union1729
Walthall1694
Carroll15711
Lawrence1541
Yalobusha1527
Webster12310
Itawamba1228
Tippah12111
Hancock12013
Humphreys1209
Calhoun1194
Montgomery1162
Jefferson Davis1034
Prentiss973
Tallahatchie943
Greene917
Tunica893
Wilkinson899
Jefferson843
Amite812
George733
Choctaw714
Quitman670
Tishomingo651
Perry594
Alcorn551
Stone511
Franklin382
Benton270
Sharkey240
Issaquena61
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 38442

Reported Deaths: 947
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson4210140
Montgomery378894
Mobile3634134
Tuscaloosa196436
Marshall14959
Lee116737
Shelby105623
Madison10216
Morgan9553
Franklin84313
Walker84317
Dallas8088
Elmore80614
Baldwin6639
Etowah60613
Butler60427
Chambers57627
DeKalb5765
Tallapoosa56069
Autauga53011
Unassigned50924
Russell4690
Lowndes45719
Houston4244
Lauderdale4105
Limestone4030
Cullman3983
Pike3965
Colbert3635
Bullock3609
Coffee3522
Barbour3221
Covington3086
St. Clair2922
Hale28520
Wilcox2788
Marengo27711
Sumter27512
Calhoun2685
Clarke2645
Escambia2586
Talladega2576
Dale2410
Winston2293
Jackson2102
Chilton2062
Blount2041
Pickens2046
Marion20012
Monroe1942
Choctaw19112
Conecuh1786
Randolph1699
Bibb1671
Macon1668
Greene1647
Perry1350
Henry1293
Crenshaw1223
Lawrence1000
Washington987
Cherokee717
Lamar711
Fayette661
Geneva630
Coosa551
Clay532
Cleburne291
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