Local elected officials leaders took a ride around Madison County over the weekend to monitor how residents and businesses were handling the latest move to help stem the coronavirus outbreak.
Gov. Kay Ivey released a list of non-essential businesses that were shut down Saturday. It was called the state’s most aggressive action to date to try to curb the spread, but falls short of a “stay at home” directive that some states have ordered.
After the tour Saturday, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, County Commission Chairman Dale Strong, and Madison Mayor Paul Finley discussed what would be their next steps.
“We have a strategy plan in place that works if everybody follows the plan, so we’re going to be very serious about this over the next 10 days to two weeks,” Battle said in a Huntsville-Madison County Chamber teleconference Monday. “Right now, we are still in the upslope of the curve, not at the top of the curve, so we have not seen the peak of confirmed cases yet, but if we can get through this first surge, we won’t be at the end, but we will be in better shape than we would otherwise.”
Battle said, overall, they found almost everybody doing what they were supposed to do.
“People stayed home, kept separated when they were out, and there was not much traffic in downtown Huntsville. Bridge Street and Research Park all the way across the board, everybody did what they were supposed to do.”
He said officials are aware of some “hot spots” across the county. Big box stores are open and inherently busy with people.
“Don’t take the whole family to these stores,” said Battle. “We call it ‘One Person, One Cart.’ Go through, get what you need, and get out.”
The Saturday posse also had to “tighten the reins” on some parks after seeing young people in groups of over 10 playing there.
“There is not to be any team sports occurring in the parks,” said Battle. “A lot of it is the younger generations … (they) enjoy group gatherings, but if one of them has the virus, then they give it to five other people in the group who take it home to their family, putting them all at risk. That’s just simply the way it is.
“And you know the one big thing we do not want to do, is have a curfew.”
Battle said he and Finley have discussed it with Strong, Huntsville Hospital Health System CEO David Spillers and Crestwood Medical Center CEO Dr. Pam Hudson.
They also discussed it with the Alabama Department of Public Health on their daily call. The ADPH keeps them updated on where they are with the virus, and what they are seeing throughout the state.
“We don’t want to institute a curfew at this time,” Battle said. “We don’t think it makes sense … but it’s still a tool in our tool chest in case we need it to enforce good public health.”
And Battle saluted the area’s health-care workers.
“They have done a wonderful job over the last several weeks,” he said. “Our hearts go out to those out there who are on the very tip of the spear, the ones who are there working on a day-to-day basis.”
Huntsville’s first COVID-19 case was confirmed March 18. There have now been 70 confirmed cases throughout the community, and Battle said there are probably quite a few more.
“If we all follow the plan, we will get through this,” he said. “If we do the right things, we come through this okay and we succeed.
“If we fail, it will cost people their lives.”