Alabama joins states under coronavirus stay-at-home order

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Beginning 5 p.m. Saturday, Alabama joined the list of states where residents were under a stay-at-home order in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Gov. Kay Ivey and state Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris announced that the order would be in place until April 30, with a determination before then on whether the order would be extended past that date, AL.com reported.

“We all have a duty to take this seriously,” the governor wrote in a Twitter message. “Wash your hands frequently, disinfect commonly used items often & practice social distancing.”

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Ivey warned that that the state would likely see sharp rises in confirmed cases and deaths in the weeks ahead.

“Folks, April stands to be very tough, and potentially very deadly,” the governor said, according to AL.com. “You need to understand we are past urging people to stay at home. It is now the law.”

As of late Saturday, Alabama had more than 1,600 confirmed cases of coronavirus – also known as COVID-19 – and had seen at least 26 deaths, according to the state’s Department of Public Health, division of infectious diseases and outbreaks.

Ivey, a Republican, had faced some criticism in the state for not enacting a stay-at-home order sooner. On Friday she addressed those concerns.

"I tried to find the right balance, something that was measured without overreacting that looked after people’s health without choking out the life from commerce," she said at a news conference Friday, according to the Advertiser.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey speaks to the media in Montgomery, Ala., Nov. 17, 2017. (Associated Press)

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey speaks to the media in Montgomery, Ala., Nov. 17, 2017. (Associated Press)

U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, a Democrat, argued that slowing the spread of the virus through a stay-at-home order would ultimately prove to be the best way to revive the economy.

“We help this economy by staying home,” Jones said Thursday, according to the Advertiser. “By staying home, we can stop the spread, and we can get this economy rolling soon.”

On Friday, Ivey said the continued growth in cases in the state prompted her to finally issue the order.

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"Yesterday [Thursday] the number of new cases jumped 160," she said at the news conference. “That was a big jump. Also EMA metrics that they got from the cell phone data, and it shows people are not paying attention to the orders we’ve asked them to abide by.” EMA refers to Alabama’s Emergency Management Agency.

Chambers County in eastern Alabama was especially hard hit, with authorities suspecting that local church gatherings may have helped spread the virus, the Advertiser reported.