By Paul DeMarco
BIRMINGHAM — Last week the Governor of Texas issued an executive order allowing the state businesses to phase in reopening and relaxing the restrictions on Lone State residents due to the pandemic. Other states around the Nation at the urging of President Donald Trump are also making moves to reopen following certain guidelines. Our neighbor in Georgia has moved even quicker to open up more of its business operations.
Alabama has been under a shelter in place order directed by Governor Kay Ivey now for three weeks with only essential businesses to be opened and citizens asked to stay at home unless necessary. Schools have also been closed for the rest of the academic year.
So when will Alabama begin to transition back to some semblance of normal life?
Everyone agrees that it will not be like turning on a light switch or we risk another outbreak and another stay at home order. But what will that progression to normalcy look like?
There is a lot of discussions on what that will look like and how that will happen.
Some have discussed a phased-in approach that allows nonessential businesses to reopen but continue social distancing. In addition, precautions would stay in place to protect seniors and those with other medical issues who would be the most vulnerable to the virus. A Small Business Emergency Task Force led by the lieutenant governor has made recommendations to the governor that some businesses open immediately with special precautions.
Of course, with these options, Governor Ivey will have to decide whether and when to get folks back to work safely.
The State Health Officer will have strong input into that decision. The availability and rate of testing along with the number of new cases will be factors the Health officer will be looking at in his recommendations to the Governor.
The current orders in Alabama are to stay in effect until April 30th. We will see if the Governor lifts the stay earlier or extends it into May. Business owners have made it clear they are ready to open now in an environment that will be safe for both employees and customers.
No matter when the difficult decision to reopen occurs, Alabamians will be up to the task. From recovering from the hurricanes and tornadoes to the oil spill a decade ago, citizens and businesses of the state have proven to be resilient and will come back once again.
Our political leaders must lead by making difficult decisions to reopen when it is safe and proper to do so.
Alabamians will do the rest.
Paul DeMarco is a former member of the Alabama House of Representatives