The Huntsville City Council and Mayor Tommy Battle held a special meeting in Huntsville on Monday.
The council voted to declare a local state of emergency which gives Mayor Battle power to make decisions quickly if he needs to do so. He explained this is necessary because the State of Emergency declared by the Governor does not apply to cities in the state. Mayor Battle said if need be he now has the ability to make decisions about personnel and resources here in Huntsville without having to get the city council's approval.
"This is not a normal time, but we can stay as close to normal as possible. As a city, we are going to stay open, I've talked to Paul, as a City Madison is going to stay open. Sanitation will be picking up garbage and yard waste, police will be patrolling, and we are running a public transit as normally as possible. City hall remains open," Battle said.
Battle said he currently sees no need to make decisions but felt it was necessary for the council to vote to give him the power to make decisions if he needs to. We asked the Mayor if he plans to shut down local businesses or restaurants because of the Coronavirus. He said the restaurants are self regulating right now.
Battle is encouraging people to place orders for to-go food to make sure they don't loose to much money, and if you do go anywhere make sure you are washing your hands and keeping distance from others.
Battle explained that right now the bus system is operating as usual, and the recreation centers are on reduced activities to try and limit group contact.
The Mayor also said the state of emergency does give him the power to enforce a city wide curfew, but he isn't planning on it right now.
"One of the things you could do we are not considering it at this time. We would not do without talking to counsel we did it, if it was deemed necessary the power to do it quickly," he said.
Battle said if a curfew is needed at some point, it would be similar to the one put in place after the 2011 tornadoes.
The Mayor explained there would be exceptions for healthcare workers to be able to go to and from work. The Mayor's office said they plan on providing updates to the community everyday about their plans with the Coronavirus.
At the news conference, held by city officials, Huntsville hospital CEO David Spillers was present.
Spillers, said they're waiting for Coronavirus test results for about 33 patients total throughout it's entire system. Spillers said it takes about 24 hours to get results from the state lab. At most, it can take up to 3 days. He explained they've started a courier service to drive tests results to the state lab in Montgomery.
Soon, they hope to be able to perform tests at the hospital. He said that could cut the processing time down to about 3 hours.
Right now, the hospital is still working to open a drive-up clinic to get people tested for Coronavirus. Spillers said they're working to make sure that only people who need to be tested are getting them.
"We need to stop the perception that everybody can have a test. If you're not sick, you don't need a test. My concern, and we've got to manage this with these drive up clinics, is that if we put a clinic out here everyone with hay fever or an allergy is going to want to ride up and get a test. If you do that the people that need tests will not be able to get tested," he said.
The hospital said right now some of the patients who were tested were sent home to self quarantine. Other patients are still at the hospital. Spillers said that's taking up enormous amount of resources, so they're working to get their results quickly.
Right now, the hospital said elective surgeries are still happening. Their team plans to discuss if they can keep them going at some point at this week, because they want to make sure they have enough supplies for any Coronavirus patients.
Crestwood Hospital was also at Monday's meeting. The hospital declined to say how many people they have tested, but it did say they are waiting for results for 5 patients right now