Alabama officials in DeKalb and Jackson counties have joined the growing list of Chattanooga region counties that are shutting down public offices, schools and nonessential operations in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
So far, no COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in either county, but officials made moves Monday following Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey's Friday declaration of a state of emergency and announcement of plans to close all schools for at least two-and-a-half weeks after March 18.
Alabama's declaration on Friday was preceded by an emergency declaration in Tennessee March 12, North Carolina on March 10, and Georgia on Saturday, the last state in the Chattanooga region to make the move.
In DeKalb County and Fort Payne, Alabama, school officials closed schools until April 6 but have plans to keep serving lunches through scattered pickup points in the county system's case, or by transporting participating Fort Payne students to city schools for lunch each school day, according to a statement.
DeKalb County Superintendent Jason Barnett said meals will be provided at a pickup site in each town near a school between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Barnett said the pickup sites and schedule will be posted through the board of education's social media.
Fort Payne schools Superintendent Jim Cunningham said that starting Tuesday, Fort Payne Middle School, Williams Avenue Elementary School, and Will's Valley Elementary School were to have all meals prepared for students between 11 a.m and 12 p.m. Three buses will be used to transport participating students.
The DeKalb County Courthouse and County Commission's office will be open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. CDT each weekday starting March 18. People entering will be screened at the door for symptoms, officials said. Admittance will be limited, as needed. Other public facilities and the public library are closed.
"We will be making decisions in the coming days in the most judicious way possible. Some decisions may have to be re-evaluated in the coming days because we are sailing in unchartered waters," County Commission President Ricky Harcrow said.
Jackson County schools closed Monday evening "until the COVID-19 pandemic threat lessens," including all school-related activities, according to a statement from Superintendent Kevin Dukes. However, school staff reported on Tuesday from 8 to 11 a.m. to wrap up any needed work and to work with parents whose children have medication at school they need to pick up.
Dukes said just 1,005 of the county system's approximately 5,000-student population showed up for classes on Monday.
"[T]his allowed us to survey what we could do as a system to help these families," Dukes said. "Our teachers have been instructed to contact their students at least once weekly to check on their well-being and answer any questions they might have pertaining to enrichment activities."
Scottsboro City Schools Superintendent Jose Reyes Jr. said attendance on Monday was only 40% and wasn't expected to improve as the outbreak continues, according to a statement. Reyes ordered schools to close Tuesday and Wednesday prior to the state-ordered closure.
No meal plans were immediately announced for county students in Monday's statement, but Scottsboro City Schools are working with churches and nonprofits that will use school buses to deliver nonperishable food to an estimated 250 Nourish One Child Program participants, according to a report by WHNT in Huntsville. The organization has collected food items for children in need, WHNT reported.
Jackson County has closed its courthouse, where most county offices are housed, until April 6, while "essential county service departments" will continue to operate, County Commission Chairman Tim Guffey said Monday in a statement. He urged residents to make use of the county's online services.