Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson on Wednesday said he disagreed with Gov. Kay Ivey’s new health order, which unlike new rules in states like Georgia and Colorado did not loosen restrictions on restaurants and close-contact businesses.
In a Zoom-enabled press conference, Stimpson said he’d hoped Ivey and other state officials would’ve given more guidance for how restaurants might be able to resume in-person dining and when Restaurants in Mobile County have been limited to curbside service and take out since March 18 and across the state since March 19.
Now it seems they’ll have to continue operating with those restrictions until at least May 15.
“I had hoped she would find a pathway forward for restaurants, or a timeline for them to open back up,” he said. “That’s where I stand today.”
In the meeting, Stimpson said there has to be a balance between protecting public health and the livelihoods of the people who’ve been unable to work due to statewide restrictions enacted to slow the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
“The balance is starting to change because people have not been getting a paycheck and it is having an impact on the economy,” Stimpson said. “You are hearing more voices talking about that than you are about health.There are no good decisions … You’re just trying to make the best decision you can at this time.”
Stimpson’s comments come as Mobile County has become the first county in Alabama surpassed 1,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19. At 49 deaths, it also leads the state in the number fatalities attributed to the disease. Stimpson said he’s concerned about those local numbers but also thinks some underlying factors might be driving them upward.
For one, he noted that in the early days of the outbreak, Mobile had a lower capacity to test residents for COVID-19 and was only testing those who were symptomatic. Other areas, like Jefferson County, initially tested more people including those who didn’t have symptoms.
He also attributed the county’s high number of cases to outbreaks at several local nursing homes, which have led to a significant chunk of the county’s reported cases and deaths.
All in all, Stimpson said he feels “comfortable” with Ivey’s loosening of regulations early this week. Under a statewide health order, the plan will open beaches and retail stores beginning at p.m. on Thursday, April 30.
“I am comfortable with the decision the governor made to open up what she opened up,” he said.
As for the city’s economy during the pandemic, Stimpson said sales tax revenue from March was greater than initially expected due to “panic buying” and freezes on hiring and employee travel. However, he also fears this month will bring different results when it comes to city coffers.
“It’ll be about the third week of May before we know what the numbers are,” he said. “It’ll be very surprising if we don’t go upside down in April.”
Stimpson also commented on reports out of New Orleans questioning whether Mardi Gras in the Crescent CIty could be cancelled for 2021 due to the lingering threat of COVID-18. Stimpson said his office has not discussed the port city’s 2021 Carnival celebration, adding that there were some other concerns to deal with first. He said it’s possible local parading societies had discussed 2021 Mardi Gras.
“At this point in time I have no advice for them,” he said. “Everything that was normal six weeks ago is not normal now. I’m not overly concerned about Mardi Gras 2021 right now.”
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