COVID-19: Limited Alabama state of emergency lifted Oct. 31; TSA extends face mask requirement for travelers through March 18, 2022

A limited state of emergency in Alabama due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel human coronavirus, ended Oct. 31, 2021.  The Aug. 13, 2021, proclamation covered emergency care in hospitals, expanding capacity at healthcare facilities, alternate standards of care and public meetings. It also eased transportation restrictions for the movement of emergency supplies.

The limited state of emergency was NOT accompanied by a public health order. The state’s health order related to Alabama’s previous COVID-19 emergency expired May 31.

Let me be crystal clear: Alabama remains open for business,” Gov. Kay Ivey said. “Our greatest weapon against COVID-19 today is the vaccine, so, if you can, roll up your sleeve and get the shot.” For the latest about vaccinations in Alabama, see Alabama Retail’s vaccine updated landing page.

Alabama originally went under a COVID-19 state of emergency on March 13, 2020. That initial emergency ended July 6 of this year. A total of 27 supplemental proclamations were issued between March 13, 2020, and July 6, 2021 – 27th, 26th, 25th, 24th, 23rd, 22nd, 21st, 20th, 19th, 18th, 17th, 16th, 15th, 14th, 13th, 12th, 11th, 10th, 9th, 8th, 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th, 3rd and 2nd supplements) The 26th lifted the statewide mask mandate.  Click here for emergency rules and actions taken by state agencies.

The United States remains under national emergency status. As a result, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued an Emergency Declaration Order, which has been modified and extended through Feb. 28, 2022.

View Alabama’s COVID-19 Dashboard
(Past 7 days, new cases, daily hospitalizations, number of deaths etc.)

This page will continue to be updated as needed with information related specifically to the global pandemic. See the Alabama Retail Associations’ Emergency Preparedness Page for broader emergency preparedness information. During uncertain times, consult your company lawyer, accountant, insurance company, banker/financial adviser about business and/or legal decisions.

Last updated 1 p.m. Dec. 2, 2021


LATEST VARIANT

The latest named COVID-19 variant is Omicron. As of Dec. 6, 2021, it had not been detected in Alabama. Neighboring Mississippi and Georgia had detected at least one case.

Emergence of Omicron variant serves as reminder to get COVID-19 vaccination
(Nov. 29, 2021, ADPH news release)


TRANSPORTATION
The state declaration also allows truck drivers delivering emergency- or disaster-related supplies and goods to Alabama to exceed the hours of service or spend less time off duty than required by federal law. The waiver only applies to the time a driver is delivering the emergency supplies.

Under federal law, a driver may drive only during a period of 14 consecutive hours after coming on duty following 10 consecutive hours off duty. The proclamation loosens that regulation only as it relates to the timely delivery of disaster supplies.

The national emergency includes “hours of service regulatory relief to commercial vehicle drivers transporting emergency relief in response to the nationwide coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak” for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. That declaration includes allowing transportation of “food for emergency restocking of stores” as one of the qualifiers for hours of service exemptions. It remains in effect until Feb. 28, 2021.


Federal and State Guidance for the Fully Vaccinated

On July 27, 2021, the CDC updated its guidance for the fully vaccinated in an effort “to maximize protection from the Delta variant.” Listen to audio recording of the announcement here.

To prevent possibly spreading it to others, wear a mask indoors in public if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission,” the CDC recommends.

If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, the guidance recommends the fully vaccinated get tested 5-7 days after your exposure, even if you don’t have symptoms. The CDC also recommends wearing a mask indoors in public for 14 days following exposure or until your test result is negative and isolating for 10 days if your test result is positive.

Everyone 18 and older should get a booster shot

Everyone 5 and older eligible for free COVID-19 vaccine


QUARANTINE FOR COVID-19 CONTACTS

Under its authority to establish state quarantine and isolation requirements, the Alabama Department of Public Health in December 2020 shortened the home quarantine period for those who may have been exposed to COVID-19 in certain circumstances to 10 days. The state says a 10-day quarantine option is acceptable if the exposed experiences no symptoms and follows other requirements and precautions. The ideal length of quarantine continues to be 14 days.

ADPH Isolation and Quarantine Timeframes
Updated Aug. 11, 2021, to Include Exceptions to Quarantine

OSHA GUIDANCE ON PREVENTING WORKPLACE SPREAD
Initially issued Friday, Jan. 29, 2021; Updated June 10 and Aug. 13

CDC Quarantine Guidance
Updated Oct. 19, 2021

CDC Info for Workplaces and Businesses
Includes workplace prevention strategies and considerations for specific industries, including restaurants and bars

Duration of Isolation and Precautions for Adults with COVID-19
(Updated Sept. 14, 2021)

CDC Testing Overview
(Updated Oct. 22, 2021)


IMMUNITY PROTECTION
Law:
On Feb. 12, 2021, Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law COVID-liability protection for businesses, healthcare providers and other groups. Its provisions are retroactive to March 13, 2020, and remain in effect until Oct. 31, 2022, a year after the state’s COVID-19 health emergency order expired. It provides civil immunity and protects against certain damages claimed by individuals who allege that they contracted or were exposed to COVID-19 due to an act or omission of a covered entity. Entities covered under the law include businesses, nonprofits, LLCs, health-care providers, educational entities, churches, governmental entities and cultural institutions operating in Alabama, as well as individuals associated with these entities. An entity would be liable if it acts with wanton, reckless, willful or intentional misconduct that can be proven under a “clear and convincing” evidentiary standard. Following applicable public health guidance frees the entities from liability.


PREVIOUS HEALTH ORDER
Alabama’s state health order expired May 31. Alabama’s uniform statewide mask mandate, which began July 15, 2020, expired April 9, 2021. Businesses and local governments can set their own requirements.

Mask Signage Provided by the State of Alabama
(For businesses wishing to continue to require or encourage face coverings)

Download Zip File of Shop Alabama Mask Graphics
(See Examples Below)

Q & A with Alabama Retail’s Employment Law Partner
about Store Mask Policies Without a Mandate

FEDERAL MASK MANDATES
Federal Property | U.S. General Services Administration Guidance
Domestic Travel
On Public Conveyances and at Transportation Hubs
TSA Mask Requirement
(Extended until March 18, 2022)

Improve How Your Mask Protects You and Others
Revised CDC mask guidance updated April 6, 2021

CDC TRAVEL ORDER
Requirement for Negative COVID-19 Test or Recovery for Air Passengers Arriving in United States
Effective 12:01 a.m. Jan. 26, 2021; Updated Dec. 2, 2021


Federal Face Covering Guidelines 
The CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings, especially in areas of significant community-based transmission. CDC additionally advises the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings should cover the nose and mouth and fit snugly against the sides of face without gaps.

The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders. Surgical masks or N-95 respirators are crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings.

FAQs on cloth face coverings in the workplace (OSHA)


UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION

May 10, 2021, News Release: As of June 19, 2021, Alabama ended its participation in all federally funded pandemic unemployment compensation programs, the governor said. The Alabama Department of Labor also reinstated the work search requirement for all claimants, which was temporarily waived during the height of the pandemic. This requires all claimants to actively search for work to remain eligible for unemployment benefits. Alabama Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington also issued a video statement (comments begin at 2:07) in regard to dropping the $300 in extra weekly federal unemployment benefits.


AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN ACT OF 2021 (HR 1319): The president signed into law a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package on March 11.  The package includes: almost $29 billion in grants for restaurants (expired July 2, 2021), $7.5 billion for vaccine distribution, $48 billion for testing and contact-tracing efforts, $1,400 in direct payments to most Americans, a $300 per week supplemental unemployment bonus through Sept. 6 (ending in Alabama June 19) and more than $7 billion more for Paycheck Protection Program loans. On March 30, the president signed HR1799, which extended the application deadline for forgivable PPP loans to May 31. It gives the Small Business Administration until June 30 to process the loans.

EMERGENCY CORONAVIRUS RELIEF ACT OF 2020: Late Dec. 21, 2020, Congress delivered a $900 billion relief bill to the president. He signed H.R. 133 into law Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020. The relief package includes $284 billion for forgivable small business loans, targeted grants, tax credits for offering paid sick leave and employee retention, $600 direct stimulus payments for most Americans, a $300 per week supplemental jobless benefit and more


TAX RELIEF
Tax Day Moved to May 17 (IRS news release): The federal income tax filing due date for individuals for the 2020 tax year is automatically extended from April 15 to May 17, 2021, the IRS announced March 17. On March 29, the IRS provided details on postponed tax deadlines and extended additional deadlines. Individual taxpayers can also postpone federal income tax payments for the 2020 tax year to May 17, without penalties and interest, regardless of the amount owed.  This postponement applies to individual taxpayers, including individuals who pay self-employment tax. Estimated tax payments continue to be due on April 15. The IRS urges taxpayers who are due a refund to file as soon as possible. Most tax refunds are still being issued within 21 days.

No Alabama Extension Necessary if 2020 Income Taxes Filed by May 17 (ADOR guidance):  The Alabama Department of Revenue issued guidance March 18 stating, “Alabama taxpayers will not need to request an extension to file Alabama individual income tax returns without a late-filing penalty through the extended federal due date.” Interest will accrue from April 15 to May 17, so the department “encourages taxpayers to make their payments for the 2020 tax year as soon as possible to avoid the accrual of interest beyond April 15.” Track progress of your refunds at myalabamataxes.gov.


VACCINES AND THE EEOC
What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act and Other EEO Laws
(Issued Dec. 16): This document includes a new section providing information to employers and employees about how a COVID-19 vaccination interacts with the legal requirements of the the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).  Section K covers vaccination questions. For an overview, read the EEOC news release.

>> Dec. 17 memo from Lehr Middlebrooks Vreeland & Thompson, Alabama Retail Association’s employment law partner


FEDERAL
CARES ACT (Link to the full law): On April 2, 2020, the U.S. Treasury Department issued an interim final rule for the $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program, part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The program involved forgivable loans to small businesses through SBA-approved 7(a) lenders, banks, or credit unions as well as all federally insured depository institutions, federally insured credit unions and Farm Credit System institutions. The application process shut down from April 16 through April 26 due to lack of funding. SBA resumed taking applications at 10:30 a.m. EDT Monday, April 27, 2020.

Deferral of employment tax deposits and payments through Dec. 31 (IRS FAQs): The CARES Act allows employers to defer the deposit and payment of the employer’s share of Social Security taxes and self-employed individuals to defer payment of certain self-employment taxes.

U.S. Treasury Department CARES Act webpage

FAMILIES FIRST CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE ACT (Link is to full text of legislation signed into law March 18, 2020) The Families First Coronavirus Response Act includes two employment-related components – the Emergency Family and Medical Expansion Leave Act and the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act. This federal legislation took effect April 1, 2020. It expired Dec. 31, 2020.


PHARMACY


RISK STATUS
COVID-19 Risk Indicator Dashboard
: The Alabama Department of Public Health’s tool that allows policymakers and others to easily see the risk status of each county in order to guide health behavior. Learn more about how the information is calculated.


FEDERAL GUIDANCE
Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce
: The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), an agency within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Homeland Security, issued an advisory list for local and state leaders to identify workers essential to critical infrastructure to ensure public health and safety, as well as economic and national security. The advisory list is not an exclusive list. Individual jurisdictions should add or subtract essential workforce categories based on their own requirements and discretion. It now identifies distribution center workers, truck drivers, electronic and hardware employees as critical infrastructure workers. The link is to a letter and a graphic updated Dec. 16 (added vaccination info) and Aug. 18 that lists essential workers by industry categories. The latest version provides guidance on how jurisdictions and critical infrastructure owners can use the list to prioritize essential workers’ ability to work safely while supporting ongoing infrastructure operations across the nation.


EEOC UPDATES
What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission technical assistance document updated Dec. 16, 2020)

COVID-19 Ask the EEOC Webinar (March 27, 2020)

Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act (Updated March 21, 2020)


ECONOMIC RELIEF FOR SMALL BUSINESSES (Also see FEDERAL LEGISLATION)
SBA COVID-19 Disaster Loans in Alabama (Governor’s March 21 news release): Small businesses across Alabama negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic are eligible for assistance under the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. Go to the Alabama Small Business Development Center Network EIDL loan page to get some valuable guidance on how to apply for a loan.

Economic Injury Disaster Loan Resume for Small Businesses: On June 15, 2020, the SBA began accepting new Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) from all eligible small businesses and U.S. agricultural businesses. On Saturday, July 11, the SBA closed out the $10,000 Advance Emergency Grants as all $20 billion allocated had been obligated for the advances.

The SBA continues to accept applications for the EIDL program, which offers a 3.75% interest rate for small businesses and 2.75% for not-for-profit organizations, a 30-year maturity and an automatic deferment of one year before monthly payments begin. To learn more about eligibility and apply for an Emergency Injury Disaster Loan, click here.

Applicants who have already submitted their applications will continue to be processed on a first-come, first-served basis. Those with an EIDL application that starts with a “3” do not need to reapply. To check on the status, email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov with your application number, or call 1-800-659-2955, and ask to speak with a Tier 2 supervisor. If you have been denied, or if the approved amount is below what you need, there is an appeal process. View on-demand webinars on the appeal process and other information provided by the Alabama Small Business Development Center Network.


MORE SMALL BUSINESS RESOURCES
SBA’s Resource Partners: Reach out to SBA’s resource partners located throughout Alabama if you need assistance with the Economic Injury Disaster Loan application process. Click on Alabama District Office Resource Guide. Resource partners (Small Business Development Centers, SCORE chapters and The Catalyst) are listed beginning on Page 11 and ending on Page 12.

Alabama Small Business Development Center Network has compiled a Guide to Conquering a Business Crisis, a Guide to Business Continuity/Disaster Assistance that includes an emergency plan and a Checklist for Managing in Times of Financial Difficulty. This site also includes information on How to Market During the COVID-19 crisis. Visit Alabama SBDC Network’s COVID-19 Small Business Resource Center.


HOW TO PREVENT SPREAD OF DISEASE

Health officials ask Alabamians to follow precautions to prevent illness and the spread of disease. Preventative measures include frequent hand-washing, covering coughs and sneezes, not touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands, staying home when sick and practicing social distancing.

Anyone with fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell, congestion/runny nose, nausea/vomiting or diarrhea should:

  • Stay home except to get medical care.
  • Separate yourself from other people and animals in your home.
  • Call ahead before visiting your doctor.
  • With a medical emergency when calling 911, notify the dispatcher about your condition.

Venturing Out? Be Prepared and Stay Safe (CDC website): While there is no way to ensure zero risk of infection, this guidance outlines potential risks and how to adopt different types of prevention measures to protect yourself and help reduce the spread of COVID-19. It includes tips for going to the bank, dining at a restaurant, hosting gatherings and cook outs, using gyms and fitness centers, going to nail salons and traveling overnight. See list of everyday preventive actions and CDC’s running errands considerations for grocery shopping, deliveries and takeout, banking and getting gas.

CDC information about how the COVID-19 disease spreads (CDC website): The virus spreads easily between people. Infections occur mainly through respiratory droplets when a person is in close contact with someone who has COVID-19. Some infections can be spread by exposure to virus in small droplets and particles that can linger in the air for minutes to hours.

FDA warns about hand sanitizers containing methanolDo Not Use List

When You Can Be Around Others After You Had or Likely Had COVID-19  (CDC guidance)

Keeping workplaces, homes, schools, or commercial establishments safe (CDC graphic)

Grocery and food retail workers (CDC guidance)

Food and grocery pickup and delivery drivers (CDC guidance)


ServSafe Offers Free Courses Related to Food Handling: ServSafe offers three free training videos: Reopening Guidance: COVID-19 Precautions; Delivery: COVID-19 Precautions; and Takeout: COVID-19 Precautions.


ECONOMIC IMPACT PAYMENTS FOR INDIVIDUALS (IRS website):  The payments, also referred to by some as stimulus payments, are automatic for most taxpayers. No further action is needed by taxpayers who filed tax returns in 2018 and 2019 and most seniors and retirees. Information also available here for non-filers. Individuals can track their payment using the IRS’s Get My Payment tool. In situations where payment status is not available because of a variety of reasons including ineligibility and failure to file a tax return for 2018 or 2019, the app will respond with “Status Not Available.” Get My Payment data is updated once per day, so there’s no need to check back more frequently.

Millions of economic impact payments coming in form of prepaid debit card (news release): The week of May 18, 2020, the U.S. Treasury Department and the IRS began sending nearly 4 million Economic Impact Payments (EIPs) by prepaid debit card, instead of by paper check.

Questions and Answers about Third Economic Impact Payments


ALABAMA SITUATION
The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) reports the  number of Alabama deaths and confirmed cases of coronavirus.

ADPH also has a statewide informational hotline and a general information e-mail address to field health-related questions from the public about the novel coronavirus COVID-19.

The toll-free hotline and e-mail address are:

  • COVID-19 General Information – 800-270-7268
    Telephone calls are answered from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. daily.
  • The COVID-19 General Information Email address – covid19info@adph.state.al.us

For information about COVID testing in Alabama, go to https://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/covid19/patients.html. In addition, a toll-free phone line provides information about available testing sites and hours of operation. This phone number is 888-264-2256. Callers will be asked for their zip code to help locate the site nearest them. On Aug. 4, 2021, Alabama hospitals urged Alabamians NOT to go to emergency rooms for COVID testing.

COVID-19 Related Emergency Actions of State Agencies: Emergency rules and other emergency actions taken by state agencies in Alabama’s response to COVID-19. For more information, please contact the agency directly.


STEPS FOR EMPLOYERS
Ten Steps All Workplaces Can Take to Reduce Risk of Exposure to Coronavirus
(OSHA poster)

  • Communicate and reinforce safe workplace practices (e.g., hand washing, disinfection)
    • Routinely clean all frequently touched surfaces.
    • Provide tissues, no-touch trash cans, hand soap, alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 60 percent alcohol, disinfectants and disposable towels for workers to clean their work surfaces.
    • Require regular hand washing or using of alcohol-based hand rubs.
  • Encourage employees who experience symptoms to stay home and isolate sick employees until they can get to medical professionals and/or home,
  • Communicate how absences will be handled (under both absenteeism policies and for purposes of compensation). If you don’t already have one, consider having an emergency sick leave policy specifically for the coronavirus or communicable diseases and communicate that policy with employees.
  • Allow work from home where feasible and practice the social distance of six feet for those who remain on the job.

Worker Exposure Risk Chart (OSHA): Categorizes jobs as very high risk, high risk, medium risk and lower risk.


OFFICIAL COVID-19 WEBPAGES:


REPORTED CASES:

HAND-WASHING

CLEANING

OTHER CORONAVIRUS RESOURCES:

Originally posted at 3:54 p.m. March 9, 2020