Updated — Saturday, March 14, 3:41 p.m.
Gov. Kay Ivey declared a state of emergency Friday evening as the state confirmed its second case of coronavirus.
At the close of business March 18, all public k-12 schools will be closed for two-and-a-half weeks. State Superintendent Eric Mackey said they plan to reopen on Monday, April 6. He will reassess the situation the last week of March. He said students won’t need to make up the work missed while schools are closed. Mackey also sent a statewide memo to superintendents requesting a waiver on absences for students who stay home in the days leading up to the official shutdown.
Jefferson County schools on Saturday issued a statement about its plan to excuse absences.
“While schools will officially be closed starting Thursday, March 19th, we understand many of you are concerned about students returning to class during the three days prior,” Superintendent Walter Gonsoulin wrote in a statement. “If you choose to keep your child home Monday – Wednesday, March 16th through 18th, their absences will be excused per the procedures issued by the Alabama State Superintendent of Education.”
The district’s Child Nutrition Program is developing a plan to feed children while schools are closed. They expect to release more information next week.
A second case of the virus has been confirmed in Jefferson County. That person is in isolation after recently returning from overseas travel. Local and state health officials are involved in the investigation, according to Scott Harris, Alabama’s state health officer.
“I would say that this is a very fast-moving situation. We’re not surprised to have additional cases, and we have been expecting this for some time,” Harris said.
During an evening press conference, Harris said officials had information about preliminary reports of three additional cases, which would bring the state’s total confirmed cases to five.
The state’s first confirmed case was announced Friday morning.
Harris said the state will launch a coronavirus hotline beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday. People can call 888-264-2256 for information on whether to seek testing.
Eric Mackey, Alabama schools superintendent, said parents have some time to make preparations before schools close late Wednesday.
“That gives parents three days extra to begin working on and thinking about childcare,” he said.
During the last week of school closures, Mackey said officials will reassess the situation.
Many of the state’s colleges and universities are switching to online instruction in an effort to curb the spread of the disease. Several events have been canceled and tourist attractions closed in recent days.
The Alabama Department of Public Health has released information about testing. The state has established a hotline for those who want to inquire about testing, but who have no health care provider. Effective Saturday, residents can call 1-888-264-2256. The state no longer requires patients meet a certain criteria to be tested for COVID-19. Birmingham-based Assurance Scientific Laboratories offers drive-through testing at two sites. Find details here.