Alabama Governor Kay Ivey has again extended the state’s Safer At Home Order as a protection measure against the continued spread of COVID-19. The extension, announced yesterday, updates the existing order which was last approved on December 9 and expands the official action until March 5. Last month’s order was scheduled to expire today.
Ivey and State Health Officer, Dr. Scott Harris — both of whom have already received the COVID-19 vaccine — made individual statements about the status of coronavirus in the state and provided healthcare updates from the executive and administrative points of view, respectively.
The extension of the Safer At Home order does not include any changes to the original order. Residents are still required to wear masks while in public and observe social distancing practices.
Governor Ivey utilized the press conference to stress the importance of taking collective prevention measures to stem the spread of COVID-19 in Alabama. More specifically, she emphasized the simplicity of taking steps to protect personal and public health, imploring residents to, “wear your mask, wash your hands, and sanitize the places where you are...and if you are experiencing symptoms please go get tested and wait until the results before you interact with others.”
“The mask mandate is the one step we can take to keep balance in our daily lives and stay healthy and safe,” said Ivey.
The governor also reported that Alabama’s ICU beds have been pushed to capacity in recent weeks due to coronavirus cases. According to Ivey, 1561 of the 1600 ICU beds in Alabama are currently occupied.
“Folks, that means that only 39 icu beds were available for COVID-19, or cancer patients, or folks involved in severe accidents,” exclaimed Ivey.
On January 8, the state announced that vaccines were being made available to first responders as well as citizens aged 75 and older. Since that announcement, many immunization providers have been overwhelmed by demand from residents eager to get an injection. Governor Ivey spoke bluntly about the impact of high demand on state vaccine supplies and gave guidance for residents about how to remain updated regarding access to immunization.
“Unfortunately simply we do not have enough vaccines for everyone who wants one, in fact, no state does. The latest locations [for vaccinations] can be found on the ADPH website,” Ivey warned.
Her remarks concluded with thanks to the Alabama Department of Public Health and an urging for patience and understanding from the public as healthcare and medical professionals work “around the clock to get shots in arms.” Ivey also implored residents to “keep on keeping on” and thanked Alabamians for “being willing to take the vaccine.”
State Health Director Scott Harris also spoke during the press announcement. His remarks expressed optimism about the state’s status and progress on COVID-19 immunization efforts. Some of his statements, however, seemed to contradict those of the governor and, at some points, even his own.
Harris’ assurance that he would, “make sure you get a vaccine if you want to get a vaccine in this state,” appeared to be at odds with Ivey’s announcement that Alabama does not have enough vaccines to go around. “If you are a person who wants a vaccine in Alabama, you're going to get that,” Holmes said. Less than 5 minutes earlier, Ivey had proclaimed that Alabama did not have enough vaccines for all citizens.
Harris also asserted that ADPH and other healthcare professionals were working to, “get the vaccine out as quickly as possible and into people’s arms,” explaining that, “county health departments who are doing vaccination are under instructions to do vaccines all day and every day until they run out. They are suspending some of their other clinical services to the extent that they are allowed to do that, to make sure staff is available and they are vaccinating...until they run out of their allotment.”
Moments later, Harris appeared to hedge his assurances, saying that the “only vaccines that are available at county health departments, at this point, are second doses...but there is no additional vaccine at this time remaining.”
Harris also addressed the issue of vaccine redistribution in areas where authorized distributors held excess doses but lacked demand to fully administer them, explaining that efforts are underway to ensure adequate access in areas that are most in need. Harris also alluded to the rollout of more drive-in immunization clinics across the state and updated the public on the latest immunization data.
Incidentally, there have been recent disputes regarding vaccine data coming out of Alabama. Harris recently disputed reports of Alabama’s poor performance, in comparison to other states, in terms of vaccine rollout. According to Dr. Harris, 202,643 doses of the vaccine have been administered so far, which is about 70,000 more than reported by government agencies. Harris also noted that Alabama has injected 42% of its received doses, expressing optimism that such percentages will improve going forward.
Throughout the press conference, both Governor Ivey and Dr. Scott Harris encouraged residents to monitor the ADPH website for updated information on vaccine injections. Harris also briefly mentioned that Alabamians should expect the launch of an online vaccine appointment portal to be rolled out within the next few days.