Alabama hospital in area hard-hit by coronavirus urges people to shelter in place (Lee County)

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Signs and painted bricks have been placed outside of the East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika, Alabama to show support for those working at the hospital through the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Giana Han)

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An Alabama hospital in one of the areas hardest hit by the coronavirus is urging people to shelter in place.

East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika said while no official mandate requires people to shelter in place, the hospital “encourages it as the best way to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

“Community leaders, city officials and the media have shared this important message but there are still reports of groups gathering, children playing in neighborhood parks, dinner parties, Bible studies and other events,” EAMC said in a statement. “These gatherings are part of our everyday life, and may seem harmless, but continuing to participate in such events will allow COVID-19 to spread further throughout our community and infect the most vulnerable among us.

“Please stay at home with immediate family members only and do not leave your home except for essential activities such as food, medical care, or work. When you do venture out, you should maintain a 6-foot distance from other people, wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds each time, and frequently disinfect high-touch surfaces,” the hospital added.

EAMC said there are 30 patients currently hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and another 12 who are suspected of having the virus. Sixteen coronavirus patients have been discharged.

Chamber and Lee counties, both served by EAMC, are among the hardest-hit areas in the coronavirus pandemic that has shuttered schools and businesses and forced everyday life to grind to a halt. According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, Chambers has 65 coronavirus cases with four deaths. Lee has 89 cases with three deaths under investigation.

While non-essential businesses in Alabama are closed, the state is not under a shelter-in-place or stay-at-home order and Gov. Kay Ivey has indicated she’s not in favor of enacting either.

“The governor’s priority is protecting the health, safety and well-being of all Alabamians, and their well-being also relies on being able to have a job and provide for themselves and their families,” Ivey spokeswoman Gina Maiola said. “Many factors surround a statewide shelter-in-place, and Alabama is not at a place where we are ready to make this call.”

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