Severity: Critical Alert

Transportation: Officials in Alabama, US, order residents to shelter in place, nonessential businesses to close from 1700 April 4 until at least April 30.

The locations affected by this alert are:

  • Birmingham, Alabama
  • Mobile, Alabama
  • Huntsville, Alabama
  • Montgomery, Alabama
  • Florence-Muscle Shoals, Alabama
  • Dothan, Alabama
  • Gadsden, Alabama
  • Auburn, Alabama

This alert began 03 Apr 2020 23:04 GMT and is scheduled to expire 01 May 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: Restrictions
  • Location(s): Alabama (map)
  • Start Time/Date: 1700 April 4
  • Impact: Movement restrictions, significant business disruptions

Summary
Health officials issued an order requiring residents to remain in their homes from 1700 April 4 until at least April 30 as part of the state's efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The order stipulates that residents may only leave their homes to provide or obtain necessary supplies or services, to attend religious services, to take care of others, or to see family members. The order also allows people to travel to work at nonessential businesses, but only if they do not routinely come within two meters (six feet) of others at their jobs or if their work is limited to ensuring minimal business operations such as safeguarding inventory and processing payroll. The order also permits people to engage in outdoor activities such as walking, but only if those participating in such activities maintain a safe distance from one another and do not congregate in groups of ten or more.

The order further mandates the closure of all entertainment venues, athletic facilities, and businesses in which people come in close contact with each other, such as barbershops and salons. Essential retailers such as grocery stores and pharmacies may remain open, but only if their locations operate at no more than 50 percent of their normal maximum occupancy and they disallow customers from coming within six feet of one another. The order also closes all beaches and prohibits groups of ten or more people from congregating in public.

Significant transport and business disruptions are likely. Authorities will almost certainly deploy additional security personnel to assist in enforcing the measure. Officials could amend the order at short notice, depending on the disease activity in the coming weeks.

Background and Analysis
The measures taken by Alabama authorities are similar to actions adopted by other governments in the US and globally in recent weeks in response to the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Advice
Strictly heed the instructions of authorities. Avoid all nonessential operations in areas impacted by the measures. Confirm appointments. Remain courteous and cooperative if approached and questioned by law enforcement officers.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

Resources
World Health Organisation (WHO): www.who.int

Alabama Stay-at-home Order: governor.alabama.gov