By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama Sen. Doug Jones said Thursday he believes the state should issue a statewide stay-home order, as other states have done, to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
“I would like to see one because it sends a strong message to the people of Alabama about how significant it is to use the social distancing, to use whatever means necessary to stop the spread of this virus,” Jones said during a news conference conducted via Facebook.
The number of reported deaths in Alabama on Thursday climbed to more than 30. The state reported that it had received nearly 75,000 unemployment claims in one week related to the virus. And Montgomery County disclosed that more than 5,000 medical masks received from the national stockpile — which is being distributed to alleviate supply shortages— were dry rotted.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has ordered the closure of non-essential businesses, closed beaches, on-site restaurant dining and schools, but has stopped short of a statewide shelter-in-place or stay-home order.
Republican governors in Florida, Mississippi and Georgia on Wednesday reversed course and issued stay-home directives after previously resisting such a statewide order.
“We are taking a measured approach to keep Alabamians healthy, safe & working, wherever possible,” Ivey’s office replied in a tweet Thursday when asked about such an order during a question and answer event with citizens.
Alabama on Thursday has more than 1,180 confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. There have been 32 COVID-19 deaths reported to the state; health officials have so far confirmed 17 of them.
States and cities are receiving shipments from the National Strategic Stockpile to try to relieve shortages in medical equipment because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
However, more than 5,000 medical masks Montgomery County received from the national stockpile were rotted, the local emergency management director said.
Christi Thornton, the city/county emergency management director, said the shipment of 5,880 procedure masks received were unusable because of dry rot. The masks had a 2010 expiration date, according to the city’s response to a survey by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Thornton said they received a replacement shipment Wednesday.
Dr. Don Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association, said Wednesday that he is extraordinarily concerned about hospitals’ dwindling levels of personal protective equipment.
He said hospitals are now measuring their supplies “in terms of days, not weeks.”
Jones said he is concerned states are in a “hunger games” situation of bidding against each other for medical supplies while national stockpile shipments have been inadequate.
The Alabama Department of Labor said last week alone it received 80,984 unemployment claims and 74,844 of those are COVID-19 related. All industries experienced increases. The majority of claims were from employees in the hotel and food services industry, the department said in a news release.
The Alabama Department of Corrections said Wednesday that a second department employee has tested positive for COVID-19. The prison system said as of Thursday that 17 inmates have been tested for COVID-19, but none of the tests have come back positive.