Apr 14, 2020
Gov. Kay Ivey Alabama Press Conference Transcript April 14
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey held an April 14 press conference on coronavirus. She said that planning is in the works to reopen the state economy. Read the full transcript here.
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Governor Kay Ivey: (03:11)
We are very grateful and while in the middle of the COVID-19 virus, certainly we are all concerned about our health, but now many of our friends are also having the extra burden of having to deal with a damaged home or vehicle. And so we all know that you can replace a building but you can’t restore your loved ones. So we are grateful that no lives were lost in our state on Sunday. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with our neighbors to the east and west, and they’ve certainly had a lot more deaths than we did and property damage as well. And I’m offering to Governors Reeves, Kemp and Edwards, our condolences in this time of loss in their states, and also our offer to provide any resources that they would find useful. That’s what neighbors do, neighbors helping neighbors.
Governor Kay Ivey: (04:07)
But turning our attention back to the COVID-19 pandemic, I want to give you a more in depth update on the progress that we’re making with our current stay at home order which runs through April 30th, and while I’m personally grateful that so many people appear to be staying at home and taking the order to heart, all indicators suggest that it is working and I cannot overemphasize enough the importance. In fact, it is imperative that we keep doing what we are doing. Now is not the time to let our guard down and pretend that things are back to normal.
Governor Kay Ivey: (04:49)
While some of the modeling suggests that our efforts have been paying dividends, many around the state are beginning to ask what are our plans about reopening the economy? And that’s the same question that other governors are getting, and that President Trump is getting, and world leaders are being asked as well. So in these few minutes, allow me to give the people of Alabama an update on our plans to open our economy back, along with a timeline in hopes that all things being equal, we can stick to this roadmap. And in all honesty y’all, we’ve been working on such a plan for several weeks.
Governor Kay Ivey: (05:29)
As many of you know, I recently as Lieutenant Governor Ainsworth to get the Small Business Commission, which he chairs, to begin looking for ways where we can restart the economic engine of our state, especially our smaller businesses. And as everyone knows, this is not a simple process just like flipping on a light switch, but the Lieutenant Governor and this commission have been working to bring forward set of recommendations that I trust will be valuable and helpful, and I hope to receive their input by this coming Friday.
Governor Kay Ivey: (06:05)
Over the weekend, my office contacted each of the seven members of our congressional delegation to ask that they look at this challenge on a district by district basis by setting up their own individual working groups in their respective districts. And y’all, I was pleased, so pleased, that all seven immediately jumped on board to be helpful. As I’ve said before, Grove Hill is not Gadsden and Decatur is not the same as Dothan. It’s especially true that our economy that there’s many differences, economic differences, in our state as they are geographic and regional differences. Our house delegation will have their report back to me on on before April 22nd.
Governor Kay Ivey: (06:52)
As y’all would expect, I’m getting a lot of advice, and I’ll admit it’s a lot of free advice on what we could do, should do, or must do to get our economy going again, but my staff and I are taking every suggestion serious and we were looking at it, and we’ve had some good ones come in already, but I intend to take all of these suggestions and recommendations, and ask six members of my coronavirus task force to help my administration begin to vet all of these good ideas. These six individuals will serve on my executive committee and they will work to put together a thoughtful, well planned timeline for us to open up the economy. And keep in mind though that these recommendations will have to be carefully integrated into the advice that we we’re receiving from Dr. Harris and our medical team of experts from throughout the state. On or before April the 28th, Dr. Harris and I will review these recommendations so that we can provide an updated plan of action before the current stay at home order expires on April 30th.
Governor Kay Ivey: (08:02)
And going forward, we will hopefully be able to give regular updates on what segments of the economy might be in a position to open, including when and how, while also allowing our businesses both large and small, ample time to plan for a safe, responsible reopening. This will be a roadmap that will help Alabama begin our road to recovery. As Governor, I have the responsibility to look after both the health of our people as well as our economic health. On a conference call yesterday with my Secretary of Labor, I was reminded that we have had more than 264,000 people file for unemployment here in Alabama in just the last four weeks. That’s in stark contrast to the number of unemployment that was filed a year ago over 12 months of 130,000.
Governor Kay Ivey: (09:00)
… 12 months of 130,000. We can take both the economic health and wellbeing of our state seriously, just as we can look after the safety and wellbeing of our people. We can do both of these things at the same time. And y’all, that’s what, together Alabama is all about. That’s our task at hand and I’m confident that we can handle both of these task at same time. Now, I’d like to ask Dr. Harris to come forward and give us an update on the pandemic. And comment on any of the things I may have mentioned as well. Dr. Harris.
Dr. Scott Harris: (09:43)
Thank you, Governor. Good morning, everyone. Thanks for being here today. Our latest numbers, as you are probably aware of, show us having about 3,800 confirmed cases so far in the state. We are just over 100 deaths. We’re still in the process of confirming those. We’ve confirmed about three quarters of those, but presumably most, if not all of those will be confirmed. So about 100 deaths so far. As of this morning, our hospitals have reported that they have about 400 inpatients currently who have tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. There is around another 600 or so inpatients who are currently being tested. Not all of those will turn out to be cases of COVID-19. But although, some of them certainly will. And I would say that’s about where we expected that we would be. We’ve seen a lot of modeling change, as you know, over the past week and even in the past two days.
Dr. Scott Harris: (10:41)
Our predictions look a lot better than we first thought when we were talking about this a month ago. The models certainly do change as we get closer to the time of an expected surge. And it looks at this time that we feel fairly confident that whatever surge we may see in the next week or so can be handled within the four walls of our hospitals, which is exactly what we would like to see. We certainly have been worried that we would have not enough hospital capacity or that we would need to have an alternative care site in different areas to take care of patients. And at the moment that does not appear to be the case. Although, we still have some turnkey ready facilities that we feel like could be up and running very quickly should we need to do that. But at the moment the numbers look as good as we have seen them. And so we’re very encouraged by that. The reason that that has changed is because people have been taken seriously the order to stay at home. There’s certainly some changing in the mathematics and statistics and looking at other things that affect the model. But the thing that has affected the modeling the most is the fact that we have a stay at home order that people have by and large been taking seriously. I was very gratified this week to get photographs of people who were sending pictures of their Easter services, and there were people who were meeting in their cars and in their parking lots, or just people who were meeting at home. And it was very gratifying just to see that people were really taking seriously and trying to live their lives and still respecting what we have asked them to do. So we know that we will continue to see cases. We are working very hard to make sure that we can test everyone that needs to be tested as quickly as possible.
Dr. Scott Harris: (12:24)
We have testing capabilities now, not necessarily every day, but pretty much every day in about 57 counties. We still have a few more that we’re working to get set up. We have the ability to test in every County, although not as completely as we would like. And we also want to be sure that we can do contact tracing on all the people who do test positive, that we can reach those close contacts and that we can isolate people who need to be isolated. So in public health we are working very hard to add to our capacity to do this. We’re shifting employees from other parts of the agency into roles where they can do contact tracing. We normally have a fairly small staff for doing this and at the moment we’ve just about quadruple the number of people and we plan to add a lot more as we can get them up and get them trained, so that we can continue to do this.
Dr. Scott Harris: (13:16)
So, overall we’ve been very encouraged. I think I do want to remind you again of the health disparity that we see from COVID-19. This is a disease that disproportionately affects our African American citizens in our state. Like, many health disparities, whether it’s heart disease or infant mortality or certain types of cancer, this is a disease that has worse outcomes in people that already have other social determinants, like chronic health problems or issues just related to education and income.
Dr. Scott Harris: (13:48)
So this is a big concern for us in public health. We want to make sure our most vulnerable citizens are the ones that we are protecting. And we’re committed to continue to doing that. So we certainly welcome this plan that the governor has today. The governor has done a tremendous job in leading this effort. It is her orders that have saved people’s lives and is the reason we’re in a position to even be having this conversation. So, I really respect that and thank you very much for what you’ve done for that. So, thank you.
Governor Kay Ivey: (14:23)
Kim Chantley, you want to start us off?
Kim Chantley: (14:24)
Sure. Governor, do you anticipate opening everything back up at once, or do you think this is something that might be done in waves?
Governor Kay Ivey: (14:35)
There’s got to be a reasoned process, and so it’ll be over time in a segment-by-segment, or region-by-region, because one size does not fit all. So, that’s the reason we ask our congressional delegation to convene meetings in their respective districts. And I’m going to have six members on the executive committee of my coronavirus team members to vet. So it’ll be a phased in segment-by-segment, because what restaurants and bars need to do is different from what a manufacturing or a retail store needs to do. So it’ll be phased in. We want to get folks back to work as soon as we can, but we want to do it as smart as we can. Yes, ma’am.
Speaker 3: (15:18)
Governor, President Trump recently said that he has total authority over when states can open up their economies. And the restrictions on COVID-19. What are your thoughts on that? Does the President have total authority or will you lead the charge and say, “Okay. Now, it’s time for Alabama to open up.” If maybe the federal government isn’t onboard with that.
Governor Kay Ivey: (15:41)
Well, we certainly want to work cooperatively with our fellows governors across the nation and also with the Trump administration, but what works in Alabama works in Alabama. And so, we may have some ideas they hadn’t thought of and they may have some ideas we hadn’t thought of, but we’ll certainly work together and cooperate. But, we are doing what we believe will be in the best interest of Alabamians to get back to work in a reasonable, orderly manner. Mike.
Governor, as Dr. Harris just reiterated, that COVID-19 is a lot worse for people with preexisting conditions, like diabetes and so forth, and those tend to be bad and rural areas where there are a lot of poor people. Has this pandemic and the circumstances caused you to more strongly consider expanding Medicaid? I know you’ve previously said all options are on the table, but are you exploring that more strongly because of what’s happened here?
Governor Kay Ivey: (16:36)
Well, certainly we’re concerned about the health and welfare of all of our citizens wherever they may live, but at the same time it would be irresponsible to think about expanding Medicaid just for the sake of expanding Medicaid without having a complete and honest discussion about the source of stable funding to pay the match, et cetera. It is an option. I’m aware of the interest that’s there, but there’s a lot of exploring that has to be done on how you pay for it.
Any kind of plan on doing that exploring on those, finding a stable source of funding?
Governor Kay Ivey: (17:15)
Right now we’re focused on keeping everybody healthy and figuring out how we can get our people back to work. Yes, sir.
Speaker 4: (17:21)
Governor, not just simply in this country, but around the world there’s concerns about reinfection when the economy is opened up, your plan is to restart the economy. Is the availability of testing a factor? Would you need to see more widespread testing available before we really start to see some of these segments of the economy reopen?
Governor Kay Ivey: (17:44)
That’s the reason we want to be sure that we are working as soon as we can, but as smart as we can to reopen the economy, because we could have a resurgence of this virus, even this Fall. And we’ve got to be prepared and be nimble enough to meet that crisis, should it present itself.
Governor Kay Ivey: (18:02)
… crisis should it present itself. Over here.
Yes, governor. What specific benchmarks are you looking for or milestones you’re looking for Alabama to have set in your determining when and how we’re going to reopen Alabama’s economy?
Governor Kay Ivey: (18:17)
I don’t know that we need to have any set of benchmarks like that. We just are working to have a plan in place that will allow every region and every geographic location, and every type of industry to have a say-so in the steps that are needed for that respective industry to get up and running in a responsible manner. Yes, sir.
Based on the models that you all have seen, when can we expect to see the peak of the virus in Alabama?
Governor Kay Ivey: (18:46)
Based on the models that you’ve all seen, when can we expect to see the peak or the flattening of the curve in Alabama?
Governor Kay Ivey: (18:54)
Dr. Harris, you may want to speak to that, but I think it’s some time between April 20 and 22.
Dr. Harris: (19:01)
Yes ma’am. That’s exactly right. We think the peak demand for hospital beds will be around the 20th. I’m sorry for ICU beds would be around the 20th. The peak demand for actual total beds, hospital beds may be a day or so earlier than that. But certainly within the next six, seven, eight days, something like that.
Dr. Harris, can you speak to [inaudible 00:19:22] nursing homes. We’ve seen sky rocket cases there. This is already a vulnerable population as it is. Is there any oversight, any plan to put more protections in place for people that are [inaudible 00:19:36]
Dr. Harris: (19:36)
Sure. Nursing homes really are very vulnerable population and we’ve been engaged very closely with nursing homes since before we even had our first case. Nursing homes actually do a very good job of thinking about infections and thinking about outbreaks because they do have a vulnerable population that’s confined. So flu season, for example, or gastrointestinal illnesses, or things that they think about and have to deal with on a regular basis. So they do spend a lot of time working on their infection control plans. What we have brought to them are other ideas about how they can deal with actual cases. So for example, when we have known positive patients who aren’t sick enough to be hospitalized, we’re encouraging them to cohort those patients, to keep those patients in perhaps a single wing or even a separate building if that’s possible, to have dedicated staff and dedicated equipment to use only for those patients that are known to be positive.
Dr. Harris: (20:32)
In many cases where we’ve had outbreaks, they have proceeded with testing everyone, trying to determine if they have asymptomatic infected people as well. That allows them to isolate those people as necessary. Then our nursing homes are always having to work very closely with hospitals, particularly when they’re receiving a patient who’s been diagnosed as infected and been hospitalized, and then returning to the nursing home. They want to make sure those patients are no longer infectious and are clear. So there are a number of ways that we are working with them to make sure their people are protected. They really are the probably the most vulnerable group that we have in our state.
You mentioned just briefly about the impact of COVID-19 on the African American community. What are y’all doing to address those issues [inaudible 00:00:21:25].
Dr. Harris: (21:30)
Yeah, absolutely. So African-American Alabamians are very susceptible to severe disease as we know. We’ve spent a great deal of time working with Senate Minority Leader, Senator Singleton on ideas that he has had and particularly in his district, but also statewide in terms of reaching out to hospitals and providers, helping them to understand the particular susceptibility that they have. We are really trying hard to communicate and just get the message out. We think sometimes the problem is we’re just not able to communicate as effectively as we would like to. We struggle sometimes getting that message out to help people understand that they really are susceptible and really are at risk. But I would say over the past two weeks or certainly the last week and a half, we’ve seen a lot of evidence that the message is getting out. People are not having the same kind of gatherings that we’d seen before. They are not having, for example, large church services in the way that we’ve seen before. They’re finding other ways to meet. So it has been a little bit of a challenge to get that message right, but we think we’re improving there.
Can you explain your reasoning behind why big box stores can stay open when there are other stores selling similar items that say they can follow those things, similar sanitation policies and they have less people, what’s their reasoning behind that?
Governor Kay Ivey: (22:54)
The big box stores, they have a limitation of 50% of the fire marshals occupancy rate. So they are limited to how many can be in the store at any given time.
But smaller stores, they said the can follow similar protocols. They can have 50% of the people allowed in.
Governor Kay Ivey: (23:14)
Those might be some of the kinds of recommendations that will come forward to start being able to open up more businesses.
[inaudible 00:23:23] system of losers and winners. [inaudible 00:23:26] Certain stores open and others not. Is that a concern?
Governor Kay Ivey: (23:32)
What’s your question?
Is it a concern that this policy is creating a system of winners and losers by having the bigger stores open and the smaller stores not?
Governor Kay Ivey: (23:41)
The issue is not who can stay open, who can be closed. The issue is keeping people separated and apart, and limit your contact with people. So that’s the initiative. Certainly we can make improvements as we go along and we’ll continue to do so, but at the same time, the focus is on physical distancing and limiting the exposure to groups of people. Todd.
Governor Kay Ivey: (24:13)
Dr. Harris: (24:13)
Yes ma’am. In terms of PPE and ventilators, it is a day by day calculation. Right now our best calculations on ventilators is that we’re okay. We believe that the capacity in the state, which includes some additional ventilators that we’ve acquired and some others that should be here any minute. We think we’ll cover the number of patients who are going to need those, particularly as our hospitals are pretty good at sharing with each other when they have these particular times. So we think we’re okay on that. PPE is a different issue all together. There’s a worldwide shortage of PPE as you know. The supply lines are completely changed and it’s difficult for everyone everywhere to get PPE. We find ourselves trying to compete with other states for the same limited supplies of PPE. I think that’s going to be an issue as we open the economy up, in that we probably will have … chances are, we’ll see recommendations about different kinds of behavior just for average citizens, people who are going out in public and wearing masks for example.
Dr. Harris: (25:15)
Or in certain types of workplaces, maybe you having to wear some degree of PPE. So we continue to try to source that everywhere we can. The governor has an assets team that’s done a great job of finding PPE for us in public health. We don’t know how to evaluate a business offer from China, but the Department of Commerce and the governor’s team are good at doing those things. So we have been able to track some things down. We made a significant purchase or placed an order over this past weekend that we hope to get in within the next few days. So it’s just a day by day.
Governor Kay Ivey: (25:49)
Governor, I just want to clarify the timeline. You’re saying that no currently closed businesses will be reopened before May 1st?
Governor, I just want to clarify the timeline. You’re saying that no currently closed businesses by order of the state will be reopened before May 1st?
Governor Kay Ivey: (26:07)
No, I hadn’t said anything about May 1st. The stay at home order goes through April 30th.
Dr. Harris, both you and Governor Ivey said that the indicators say that the stay at home is working. What are some of those indicators that you’re looking at to determine that the stay at home order is working?
Governor Kay Ivey: (26:22)
Just look at this weekend’s traffic. [inaudible 00:26:31] did a traffic count and it was much lower than an Easter weekend traffic counted usually is. That’s a strong, good indicator that folks are staying at home, and paying attention, and doing what they ought to do.
Governor, right back here. [inaudible 00:26:45]
Governor, I’m sorry but I miss phrased myself earlier. I was asking, is there any chance that some businesses will be open before April 30th?
Governor Kay Ivey: (26:54)
Before April what?
Governor Kay Ivey: (26:57)
Governor, when you think about these-
Speaker 7: (27:04)
Governor, when you think about these and other questions, is there a plan to coordinate with governors of Tennessee, [inaudible 00:27:08] Georgia? Is there a regional plan for reopening the economy so no state gets ahead of the others in these decisions?
Governor Kay Ivey: (27:16)
We’ll be glad to share our plan, but I have not been asked by any other state nor have I reached out to another state and said, “Hey, what y’all doing?” Like I said, we’ve been working on developing this plan for some several weeks now because we all want to get back to work, and I want all my people to have a good paying job because we had a strong economy going into this thing. Thank goodness we did, and we want to get back to that. But we’ve got to do it in a planned and methodical method to give the businesses ample time and opportunity to get back up and find some creative ways to do their businesses that they hadn’t thought about before.
Speaker 7: (27:54)
And we have a question right here at Lydia.
Governor, a lot of people in the state have changed their life through social distancing. What does that look like for you? Are you working from the mansion more? Are you limiting how often you’re around people? What does social distancing look for you on a daily basis?
Governor Kay Ivey: (28:11)
Well, I’m staying alone wherever it is I am as much as I can, and I’m relying a lot on technology to stay in touch with groups, whether it’s the mayors or the county commissioners, or the hospital CEOs, certain legislators, et cetera. So technology, we’re utilizing that and probably working twice as hard as before, but that’s what we’re doing.
Speaker 7: (28:38)
All right, one more question. [crosstalk 00:28:38]
Speaker 9: (28:40)
Governor, you mentioned in your remarks that there is over 200,000 Alabamans who are out of work right now through no fault of their own. What message of hope would you offer those people who are at home watching this. Their lives have completely changed. And can you speak to what the Department of Labor is doing to try to process those claims faster?
Governor Kay Ivey: (28:59)
Well, the Department of Labor is working overtime and round the clock to process these claims. Like I say, the last four weeks they had 264,000 applications as compared to 130,000 in 12 months last year. So it’s an overload over there, but they are working to stay on top of it as best they can. And anybody who’s made an application will get tended to. Don’t feel like you’re going to be left out. You’ll get tended to. So it’s a matter of patience there.
Speaker 9: (29:41)
What encourage would you offer those people just as the Governor? What words of wisdom would you give those people that are watching right now that are out of work?
Governor Kay Ivey: (29:41)
Well, bottom line is the stay at order has only been in place a little over a week, and it takes at least two full weeks before you can get any kind of data to evaluate. So April 17th is Friday. That will be two weeks, and I know two weeks maybe sounds like a long time to stay by yourself or at home or with just your family, but time flies when you’re having fun. So it’s just imperative that we continue to stay at home and practice social distancing.
Speaker 7: (30:14)
All right, one more question. Yes?
Speaker 10: (30:20)
Governor, do you anticipate the closure or some closures will continue through May?
Governor Kay Ivey: (30:22)
That’s just speculation. I’ve got these teams in place, and we’re going to listen to them and evaluate all the information that we get.
Speaker 10: (30:28)
Do you hope to get the beaches open for summer?
Governor Kay Ivey: (30:31)
Hope springs eternal. Thank y’all.