MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabamians filed onto beaches and into previously shuttered retail stores Thursday evening as a state stay-home order expired, although salons, on-site restaurant dining and other places remained closed under a new state health order.
A state stay-home order expired at 5 p.m. and retail stores and beaches could open with occupancy limits. Beach cams showed people strolling along the sand in Gulf Shores under the late afternoon sun as beaches opened for the first time in a month. Elective and non-emergency medical procedures are also being allowed to resume.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Tuesday announced that some restrictions were being lifted, but many would remain in place.
Salons, barbershops, gyms, tattoo parlors, bars and on-site restaurant dining will remain closed until the evening of May 15, under the newest "safer at home" state health order.
Alabama has reported more than 7,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and had more than 260 deaths from the disease, according to numbers from the Alabama Department of Public Health.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Thursday asked Birmingham officials to reconsider using jail or fines to enforce a new city ordinance requiring masks in public.
"With your announcement that the mask requirement will be enforced, I am concerned that Birmingham law enforcement officers are going to be placed in a very difficult position and may feel pressure to divert limited manpower and resources away from more direct threats to public safety," Marshall wrote in a letter.
The city of Birmingham on Tuesday approved an ordinance requiring masks or face coverings to be worn in public places within the city. The order applies to people over the age of 2.
Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said the requirement to wear face coverings is a common sense way to control spread as people return to stores and other places. Woodfin said he is comfortable that the ordinance is legal. Violators could face up to a $500 fine and 30 days of jail time, but Woodfin said he is believes most people "will voluntarily do the right thing."
"Face coverings assist all of us in making sure we can prevent, or slow, that community spread," Woodfin said.
The city is also issuing a nighttime curfew that will run from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.
More than 400,000 Alabamians have filed unemployment claims during the past six weeks as businesses were ordered closed, or stopped work, during the coronavirus outbreak.
The Alabama Department of Labor announced the latest numbers Thursday. Nearly 75,000 new claims were filed last week, according to the state agency.
The record unemployment claims have been cited by politicians and groups eager to end closure orders.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in weeks. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including life-threatening pneumonia.