Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle urged people to avoid panic shopping and hysteria in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak.
His comments came at a news conference Monday with Madison Mayor Paul Finley, Emergency Management Agency Director Jeff Birdwell, and local health care and public safety partners.
“We all need to take a step back and take a deep breath,” he said.
At the mayors’ requests, the Huntsville and Madison city councils each passed three-week states of emergency. The action will authorize the cities to avoid regular council procedure and take immediate action as needed to help fight COVID-19.
Battle, Finley and Madison County Commission Chair Dale Strong have been in regular communication with EMA, hospitals, HEMSI, ADPH, Redstone Arsenal and state partners on timely and coordinated action items to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
David Spillers, CEO of Huntsville Hospital, said, “We still have regular flu out there and other illnesses haven’t stopped.”
He also said the hospital has canceled elective surgeries to save supplies and keep staff available.
“We recognize this is serious, and we are practicing all precautions while ensuring essential government services and protections remain in tact,” said Battle. “This team is working together. These are not normal times but we want to be as normal as possible.
“The City of Huntsville is still collecting garbage and our police and fire units remain on duty. Public transportation will run. We urge people to ‘sanitize and separate’.”
Dr. Pam Hudson of Crestwood Hospital said the facility is “open for business” but with restrictions.
“No one under the age of 16 (will be allowed to visit patients),” she said. “There is one visitor per patient and visitors will be screened.
“Our goal is to keep our patients safe and our staff safe.”
Battle said the retail, restaurant and hospitality industries may be hit the hardest, with people self-isolating themselves but “we’ll try to help.”
Unlike other municipalities, Huntsville and Madison are not closing restaurants and bars but, Battle said, “restaurants will be self-regulating” by following the state health department guidelines of limiting its customers to half of the capacity of the business.