By Carrie Brown McWhorter
The Alabama Baptist
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey is lifting some restrictions on group gatherings effective Monday, May 11, paving the way for church services, funerals and weddings to resume.
The amended “safer-at-home” order lifts restrictions on the number of people who can gather for non-work related gatherings, which includes worship services. The order still requires that non-family groups or people who don’t live together maintain a six-foot distance from others, but Ivey said religious leaders will have to make their own decisions about whether and how they can hold services and programs under the guidelines.
Dr. Scott Harris, Alabama state public health officer, noted that the biggest single outbreak of COVID-19 in Alabama was associated with a church event, with as many as 50 deaths associated with the event, and disease transmission continues throughout the state.
Harris said there continues to be a need for social distancing, good hygiene and other precautions to keep people safe.
“We need you to work with us and cooperate with us … so we can protect the most vulnerable people in our society,” Harris said.
Guidance for churches
Harris said some churches have told the Alabama Department of Public Health they plan to hold separate services for senior adults and others have said they will continue to hold online services, which he called “a terrific idea.”
“We certainly want people to get back to their normal worship as soon as possible, but please work to make that as safe as possible” for vulnerable individuals, Harris said.
According to ADPH, “vulnerable persons” means individuals 65 years and older or individuals with serious underlying health conditions, including high blood pressure, chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma and those whose immune system is compromised such as by chemotherapy for cancer and other conditions requiring such therapy.
Harris directed churches to the ADPH website and “Guidelines for Places of Worship” (click here to access the document).
Also under the new guidance, the following businesses may also open, with some restrictions and additional sanitation guidelines to follow: restaurants (with limited table seating); gyms and fitness centers (with specified athletic activities still not allowed); close service providers, including barber shops, hair salons, nail salons and tattoo parlors.
Ivey said she hopes to announce the next phase of the state’s reopening by the middle of next week.
About 602 patients currently hospitalized throughout the state are confirmed as having COVID-19, Harris said.
See a graphic of the latest order by clicking here.