EXCLUSIVE: State health officer says Alabama churches are permitted to meet under new order


DOTHAN, Ala. (WDHN) — State Health Officer Scott Harris clarified the status of churches under Gov. Kay Ivey’s new amended Safer-at-Home order.

While churches were not specifically mentioned in the new order, Harris said there was never an explicit ban on churches meeting. Instead, what kept churches from being open was the 10-person limit for non-work gatherings.

“Under the new health orders, which will take effect starting this Monday, there is no limit on the number of people who can gather, although we do want people to maintain six-foot distances between people of different households,” he said. “We certainly understand the importance of churches getting together and people getting back to worship and we understand the necessity of that. At the same time, we want to make sure that we’re protecting our most vulnerable people, particularly our seniors, and we want to make sure that they follow proper social distancing guidelines.”

Harris also said that while there has been some improvement in the COVID-19 outbreak, the numbers have been rising the past few days. Thursday marked the highest daily total of new COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began with a count of 356 new cases.

“I think we still wish we had better numbers than we have right now,” he said.

Overall, the way the state has reacted to the pandemic depends on the area, according to the officer.

“I think it’s a little different in different parts of the state,” Harris said. “There’s some places in the state that are at a ten, and there are some places that are definitely not at a ten. I think, generally speaking, I’ve been very pleased at the way Alabamians have really tried very hard to do the right thing. Sometimes they maybe lack the information or we haven’t communicated to them exactly what they need to do, but in most cases, I think people have complied with health orders.”

To watch his full interview with Paige Weeks, click the video above.

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