Facing Limited Options, Maddox Announces 24-hour Curfew
With his options limited by Alabama's constitution, Tuscaloosa mayor Walt Maddox announced Thursday night that he will enact a 24-hour curfew beginning March 29th.
As Maddox has explained several times this month, Alabama is a Dillon Rule state, which means that except in Jefferson and Mobile Counties, any mandatory shelter-in-place order must come from Governor Kay Ivey on the advice of the Alabama Department of Public Health.
Despite a significant spike in confirmed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus statewide this week, Ivey said in a press conference that now is not the time for such an order. At the time of writing, there were 531 confirmed cases in Alabama, including 20 in Tuscaloosa County.
Through executive order, Maddox declared a mandatory nightly curfew Wednesday that would severely restrict travel and gatherings from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. It was originally set to last from this Friday, March 27th until Friday, April 3rd.
That curfew will still go into effect Friday, but on Sunday, March 29th, a 24-hour curfew will go into place. It is currently scheduled to end on April 10th.
Under the extended curfew, Tuscaloosa residents will be asked to remain in their home or place of residence at all times, leaving only for essential purposes. These purposes include but are not limited to: work at essential businesses; visiting essential businesses like grocery stores, pharmacies, financial institutions and gas stations; providing care for others; retrieving to-go orders from restaurants; attending doctor’s appointments; and exercising outside – as long as six feet of social distance is maintained.
All non-essential businesses and services will be closed under this order.
Violation of the curfew will be a misdemeanor offense, but Maddox pleaded with community to just stay home and tie up area law enforcement by violating the order.
Maddox said city staff will evaluate the curfew daily and lift it if it is no longer necessary and extend it if the situation warrants.
Maddox shared extremely alarming projections during a Thursday night press conference that showed scientific predictions in various scenarios. In those projections, 97,000 Alabamians will contract COVID-19 by May 10th even if optional social distancing is maintained.
Even a fraction of that number would completely overwhelm Alabama's hospitals, especially in Tuscaloosa County, where there are only 800 hospital beds and 80 ICU units are available for patients.
If even 1 percent of Tuscaloosa County's population is infected, there will be 1,839 cases here. History shows that 7 percent of them would require critical care, which would mean 134 people needing ICU beds.
Social distancing is no longer enough for Alabama and Tuscaloosa, Maddox said.
"Let me be clear," Maddox said. "Our science is clear, our data is clear and it’s clear to me that we must act."