COVID-19: Fallout hits home

• Alabama schools closed through April 3 • Franklin County Schools meals to be sent to homes, in car lines on Mondays • Generations clamps down on visitations • City urges residents to stay calm, observe proper precautions

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A sign on the front door of Generations of Red Bay announces the center’s temporary policy of not allowing visitors in order to protect facility residents from the COVID-19 outbreak. More information on the move can be found on Page 4 of this edition. News photo/Jason Collum

Though there are no presumptive or confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Baymont area as of March 18, local residents are feeling the effects of the outbreak, which has seized the nation and led to unprecedented measures from all levels of government and major disruptions to daily lives.

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey issued a state of emergency on Friday, March 13, and ordered all K-12 public schools to close from Thursday, March 19 through Friday, April 3. A determination will be made at a later time whether that period of closure will be extended. Many schools, including Franklin County Schools, further issued statements that any students who did not attend school on Monday through Wednesday of this week due to concerns over the virus would not be penalized for the absences. Reports indicate the school was a virtual ghost town on Monday, with most parents opting to keep their children home.

Franklin County Superintendent Greg Hamilton addressed the issue of students receiving meals while they are out when it was announced that, beginning today and then following on at least the next two Mondays, the school district will be preparing lunches for students. They will then be available for pickup in the car driver lines or be delivered along the bus routes. More information on this can be found in the Lunch Menu space on Page 6 of this edition.

In addition to classrooms being closed for two and a half weeks, all athletic activities have been cancelled during this time as well. Whether it means the effective end of spring sports for high school teams in both Alabama and Mississippi will be determined at a later date as well.

The City of Red Bay has also announced the postponement of all youth and adult league sports through the Parks and Recreation Department. Weatherford Library will be closed until further notice, and municipal court has been rescheduled for April 24 at 9 a.m. While the Senior Center was closed for daily senior activities yesterday, the home bound meal program will continue as usual.

City services such as police and garbage pickup will continue as usual, and City Hall will remain open, but Mayor Charlene Fancher asked that anyone needing to do business with the City call City Hall first at 256-356-4473.

While Red Bay Hospital continues to operate on a plan allowing limited visitation for patients, Generations of Red Bay decided late last week to temporarily stop all nonessential visits to its residents. More information on this can be found on Page 4 of this edition.

Outside of school and city services, the effects of the U.S. government’s calls for social distancing in an effort to contain the spread of the novel Wuhan coronavirus, have led to panic buying in many areas, with toilet paper supplies at most U.S. retailers being wiped out by the weekend. Red Bay and Belmont stores were not immune to the influx of shoppers buying supplies in preparation should a quarantine have been ordered. Shelves at Big Star, Piggly Wiggly and Dollar General in Red Bay were obviously much lighter on stock by the weekend, though those supplies were expected to be replenished this week. Dollar General Manager Jeff Reid said he didn’t witness any of what he would call hoarding purchases, but he did see a lot of people stocking up on non-perishable food items.

As of Tuesday afternoon, there have been 194,873 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the world, with 5,702 of those in the United States. Of those cases, 94 patients have died and at least 17 recovered, according to records provided by Johns Hopkins University.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases. The CDC states that symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure and can include fever, cough and shortness of breath. If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms, call your healthcare provider for medical advice. 

The CDC also states that older adults and people who have severe underlying chronic medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness.