MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Law enforcement officials can issue misdemeanor citations for violating to people who violate the state health officer's orders against large public gatherings to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the state attorney general has advised agencies.
Alabama on Sunday evening had at least 157 confirmed cases of coronavirus, and the state health officer issued orders prohibiting on-site restaurant dining and non-work gatherings of more than 25 people that cannot maintain a consistent 6-foot distance between people.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Saturday issued guidance to law enforcement agencies, saying they have the authority to issue citations to people who refuse to comply with the orders, although he urged restraint in doing so.
“While the unprecedented nature of this pandemic and the government’s evolving response seem to demand some restraint related to criminal enforcement of this order, if a violator has been made aware of the state health order and the refusal to comply presents a threat to public health and safety, the penalties of (the law) are available as an enforcement tool," Marshall wrote.
The state attorney general said a person found guilty of violating an order of the State Board of Health shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, would be fined between $25 and $500.
Jefferson County has the highest number of reported cases in the state with more than 70.
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.