COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions
This page provides answers to your most-asked questions about the COVID-19 outbreak. We update this page often.
Use a desktop computer to search for a specific question. Using Windows, hold down "CTRL" and press the "F" key. On a Mac, hold down "Command" and press "F." A search bar will appear.
If you have further questions once you have reviewed the questions and answers on this page, please call our COVID-19 24/7 Hotline at 1-800-270-7268 or email email@example.com. Telephone calls are answered from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Interpreters are available.
In cooperation with Governor Kay Ivey's Office, we have created these Stay at Home Frequently Asked Questions for Individuals and FAQs for Businesses addressing the most-asked questions related to the latest emergency order (Spanish version) from State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris which went into effect April 4 at 5:00 p.m.
Tables of Contents
- For Patients
- For Specific Audiences
- For Healthcare Providers
- Numbers Reported
- Closings and Canceling Activities
- Environmental and Food
Q: What is coronavirus?
A: Human coronaviruses were first identified in the mid-1960s. Seven sub-groups are known to infect people, including several that cause the common cold. MERS-CoV (which causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), SARS-CoV (which causes severe acute respiratory syndrome), and the 2019 novel coronavirus infect animals and have evolved to make people sick.
Q: What is COVID-19?
A: COVID-19 is a disease caused by a respiratory virus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in December 2019. COVID-19 a new virus that hasn’t caused illness in humans before. Worldwide, COVID-19 has resulted in thousands of human infections, causing illness and in some cases death. Cases have spread to countries throughout the world, with more cases reported daily.
Q: What are the symptoms?
A: Most people will have mild effects from the virus, but it can cause severe illness and pneumonia in others. People diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus reported symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure. Symptoms include:
- Fever (100.4 or greater)
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Q: What should you do if you have symptoms?
A: If you have symptoms, please stay home! If the symptoms require medical attention, seek a healthcare provider. If you have been in direct contact with someone who has been confirmed with the COVID-19 virus and you develop symptoms, notify your healthcare provider. Supply them with information regarding your symptoms and that you have had contact with a confirmed case. Do not go to your healthcare provider or an emergency room without contacting your provider or the emergency room first so they may take precautions to protect you and others.
Q: Who is at risk?
Any person can contract the Coronavirus. However, certain populations are more at risk such as:
- People who are close contacts of someone known to have COVID-19, for example healthcare workers, or household members.
- People who have recently been in an area with the ongoing spread of COVID-19. Learn more about places with ongoing spread.
- Older adults and those with serious health conditions (heart disease, diabetes, lung disease and any condition that affects the immune system).
Q: Is there a vaccine?
A: Not currently. There is currently no vaccine to protect against COVID-19. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid exposure to the virus.
Q: What are the treatments?
There are no specific treatments for illnesses caused by human coronaviruses. Although most people will recover on their own, you can do some things to help relieve your symptoms, including:
- Take medications to relieve pain and fever
- Use a room humidifier or take a hot shower to help ease a sore throat and cough
- If you are mildly sick, drink plenty of fluids, stay home, and get plenty of rest
Q: How is COVID-19 transmitted?
A: COVID 19 illness is spread mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets (mucous from the nose and throat) when a person who has COVID 19 illness coughs or sneezes and another person comes into contact with the infectious droplets. This is how the flu and many other respiratory illnesses spread. Respiratory droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be breathed into the lungs. Spread of the virus is more likely when people are at a close distance, such as within about 6 feet. Some information has been reported that the virus that causes COVID 19 is in the fecal matter (bowel movements) of infected patients. While CDC does not report this as a clearly understood way the virus is transmitted, it remains important to wash your hands after using the restroom. In some environments, the virus that causes COVID 19 can survive on surfaces, so regular sanitation of shared surfaces is important.
Q: Can a person spread the infection if they don’t feel sick?
A: People are thought to be most contagious (able to spread the virus) when they are symptomatic (the sickest). That is why CDC recommends that these patients be isolated either in the hospital or at home (depending on how sick they are) until they are better and no longer pose a risk of infecting others. More recently, the virus has also been found in persons who do not have symptoms. This is why social distancing, good respiratory hygiene, including good hand washing, and staying at home unless you have to go out for food, supplies, or essential work, are important ways to reduce the spread of this virus.
Q: How long can a person spread COVID-19?
A: At this time, health officials do not know when someone with COVID-19 becomes contagious. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working with public health agencies and scientists to learn more about COVID-19.
Q: How can I be more prepared for COVID-19?
A: Have an adequate supply of nonprescription drugs and other health supplies on hand, including pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines. Check your regular prescription drugs to make sure you have an adequate supply; refill your prescriptions if needed. Have a thermometer, tissues and hand sanitizer in case you become ill and must stay at home to recover. Talk with family members and loved ones about how they would be cared for if they got sick and what will be needed to care for them at home. Have a two-week supply of water and food available at home.
Q: Should I wear a face mask when I go out in public?
A: N95 and surgical masks should be used by healthcare workers and first responders, as they are the persons who need this high level of protection in their work. The CDC now recommends the use of cloth face coverings in community settings (for example, grocery stores and pharmacies) where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.
There continues to be more information that people who are infected can spread the virus before they develop symptoms or when they do not have symptoms. Wearing a cloth face covering may help prevent the spread of the virus by people are infected and do not know it.
If you do not have access to a mask, you can make your own: Do-It-Yourself Cloth Face Covering Instructions.
Q: What about face covers for those who are hearing impaired and rely on reading lips to communicate?
A: The National Association offers suggestions to aid communication for the deaf or hard of hearing at https://www.nad.org/covid19-communication-medical-access-for-deaf-hard-of-hearing/. Some alternatives for persons with hearing loss include using print-outs, a dry-erase board, or pen and paper to communicate; apps like Google LiveTranscribe; or FaceTime/video calls where you ask the doctor to go to their office where they can safely remove their mask and talk with you via videophone, or have them text/email.
Q: What are some things I can do to protect myself when grocery shopping?
A: The Alabama Department of Public Health recommends the following: make a list before you go, only send one person to the store, wipe down the shopping cart, use hand sanitizer, and leave space between you and the other shoppers. Do not shop if you are sick. Choose online ordering if it is available. You can find these tips and more on our Smart Shopping flyer, available in English and Spanish.
Q: If someone has COVID-19, what will happen to them?
A: The vast majority of people recover from this infection. Most people will have mild or moderate symptoms. Some people may be advised to recover at home and isolate themselves from others. These individuals should call their physicians or healthcare practitioners if their symptoms get worse. Some COVID-19 infections can lead to serious illness, and in some cases death. If someone has a more serious illness from COVID-19, they may be admitted to the hospital. Older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions have a greater risk for serious illness. Examples of pre-existing medical conditions are: cancer, diabetes, heart disease or other conditions impacting the immune system’s ability to fight germs.
Q: What type of cleaning and disinfecting products should I use?
A: Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects daily (e.g., tables, countertops, light switches, doorknobs, and cabinet handles) with regular household detergent and water. Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved products with emerging viral pathogens.
Q: I’m a patient at a hospital. Am I at risk for COVID-19 from other patients?
A: We recommend people with suspected COVID-19 cases be in their own room in a healthcare setting. Healthcare workers are trained to remove their personal protective equipment (PPE) and wash their hands after seeing a patient, so the infection doesn’t leave the room.
Q: Should I be concerned about getting COVID-19 from products or packages shipping from China or other parts of the world?
A: There is ongoing research about how long the virus that causes COVID-19 can live on surfaces such as cardboard, plastic, stainless steel, and copper. There is still no indication that COVID-19 illness can be contracted from mail or packages. Spread is still considered to be most likely person to person. However, to provide an extra measure of sanitization, you can wipe off packages with disinfectants before you bring them in your house. You should still wash your hands after opening/handling packages. It is also important to continue to clean high touch surfaces such as counters, light switches, and door knobs regularly. The University of Alabama at Birmingham provides a great visual of how long the virus can stay on different types of surfaces based on a study completed by the New England Journal of Medicine.
Q: Should I be concerned about my pets or other animals and COVID-19?
A: The first case of an animal testing positive for COVID-19 in the United States was a tiger with a respiratory illness at a zoo in New York City. Samples from this tiger were taken and tested after several lions and tigers at the zoo showed signs of respiratory illness. Public health officials believe these large cats became sick after being exposed to a zoo employee who was actively shedding virus. This investigation is ongoing.
If you are sick with COVID-19 (either suspected or confirmed), you should restrict contact with pets and other animals, just like you would around other people. Although there have been no reports of pets becoming sick with COVID-19 in the United States, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. This can help ensure both you and your animals stay healthy.
- When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick.
- Avoid contact with your pet including, petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food.
- If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with them.
Q: What if I don’t have insurance?
A: Call the Alabama COVID-19 24/7 hotline at 1-888-264-2256 and ask for free or low-cost testing in your area. Interpreters are available.
Q: Why will my doctor not test me for COVID-19?
A: Physicians and healthcare providers remain the best source of medical guidance for your family and you. Your healthcare professional may determine, based upon his/her clinical judgement, that you do not have COVID-19 and have another diagnosis.
Q: Does COVID-19 always present with a fever?
A: Fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath have been the most common symptoms of COVID-19. For more information about symptoms of COVID-19 and when to seek medical care, visit the CDC.
Q: Is there any information available on pregnancy and COVID-19?
A: The Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) has released guidance on the maternal, fetal and neonatal implications of the disease. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has guidance as well.
Q: Can I utilize telehealth services for COVID-19?
A: Telehealth can be a resource for screening and diagnosis for physicians and NPs during the COVID-19 response. Check with your provider, and they can advise you about coverage for Telehealth.
Q: I'm HIV positive and concerned about coronavirus. What precautions should I be taking other than social distancing?
A: Persons with HIV Should:
- Keep at least a 30-day supply—and ideally a 90-day supply—of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs and other medications.
- Talk to their pharmacists and/or healthcare providers about changing to mail order delivery of medications when possible.
- Persons for whom a regimen switch is planned should consider delaying the switch until close follow-up and monitoring are possible.
- Lopinavir/ritonavir (LPV/r) has been used as an off-label treatment for patients with COVID-19 and clinical trials are underway globally. If protease inhibitors (PIs) are not already part of a person’s ARV regimen, their regimen should not be changed to include a PI to prevent or treat COVID-19, except in the context of a clinical trial and in consultation with an HIV specialist. In a small open-label trial, 199 hospitalized patients with COVID-19 were randomized to either 14 days of LPV/r plus standard of care or standard of care alone. No statistically significant difference was seen between the two groups, with regards to time to clinical improvement or mortality.
Note: During the COVID-19 Response, 90-day prescriptions are available for all uninsured clients utilizing AIDS Drug Assistance Program formulary and for all insured clients based on their BCBS insurance plans allowable until June 30, 2020.
For Specific Audiences
Q: I have questions regarding WIC?
A: Call our WIC Office at (334) 206-5673.
Q: What are people who receive their snap benefits at the end of the month supposed to do when there isn’t any food left?
A: The Food Assistance Division at the Department of Human Resources (DHR) administers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in Alabama. Please contact DHR.
Q: What are you doing to ensure the health of our garbage men?
A; COVID-19 is spread by respiratory droplets (mucous from the nose, mouth, throat, and lungs) which can be spread person to person over a distance of about six feet. Persons working outside, not close together, are not at risk from COVID-19 from working outside. Garbage and refuse collectors should take hygiene precautions such as gloves, good handwashing, or use of hand sanitizer.
Q: Can Coronavirus get into our food supply?
A: COVID-19 is not thought to be spread through food. However, when making food, persons should use appropriate hygiene for themselves, such as good handwashing, cleaning surfaces like countertops, refrigerator, and stove handles. Sick persons should not make food for other persons.
Q: I would like to help with the response effort. How do I volunteer?
A: You can help in many ways, from delivering groceries to the elderly to providing legal and accounting assistance to struggling businesses. Register to help at AlTogetherAlabama.org.
For Healthcare Providers
Q: When is someone infectious?
A: The onset and duration of viral shedding and period of infectiousness for COVID-19 are not yet known. It is possible that SARS-CoV-2 RNA may be detectable in the upper or lower respiratory tract for weeks after illness onset, similar to infection with MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV. However, detection of viral RNA does not necessarily mean that infectious virus is present. Asymptomatic infection with SARS-CoV-2 has been reported, but it is not yet known what role asymptomatic infection plays in transmission. Similarly, the role of pre-symptomatic transmission (infection detection during the incubation period prior to illness onset) is unknown. Existing literature regarding SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses (e.g. MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV) suggest that the incubation period may range from 2-14 days.
Q: Can people who recover from COVID-19 be infected again?
A: The immune response to COVID-19 is not yet understood. Patients with MERS-CoV infection are unlikely to be re-infected shortly after they recover, but it is not yet known whether similar immune protection will be observed for patients with COVID-19.
Q: Are pregnant healthcare personnel at increased risk for adverse outcomes if they care for patients with COVID-19?
A: Pregnant healthcare personnel (HCP) should follow risk assessment and infection control guidelines for HCP exposed to patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. Adherence to recommended infection prevention and control practices is an important part of protecting all HCP in healthcare settings. Information on COVID-19 in pregnancy is very limited; facilities may want to consider limiting exposure of pregnant HCP to patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, especially during higher risk procedures (e.g., aerosol-generating procedures) if feasible based on staffing availability. Visit the CDC's Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: Information about COVID-19.
Q: Are there guidelines on COVID-19 in place for dental professionals?
A: Effective March 19, 2020, by Order of Dr. Scott Harris, Alabama State Health Officer, all elective dental and medical procedures shall be delayed. This Order supersedes all orders previously issued by the State Health Officer and Jefferson and Mobile County Health Officers. Prior to April 6, 2020, determination shall be made whether to extend this Order. See Alabama Dental Treatment Protocol Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic.
Q: How many ventilators does every hospital in Alabama have?
A: There are approximately 100 hospitals in Alabama. We are unable to provide specific numbers of ventilators for each facility. Ventilators are being transferred between facilities so the number any specific facility has on hand at any one time may be fluid.
Q: What do I do if I suspect I have COVID-19?
A: If you suspect you have COVID-19, call the Alabama COVID-19 24/7 hotline at 1-888-264-2256. Interpreters are available.
Q: How do I find a testing site for testing of COVID-19?
A: For COVID-19 testing sites and hours of operation, call the Alabama COVID-19 24/7 hotline at 1-888-264-2256. Interpreters are available.
Q: How much is a test for COVID-19 if I don't have insurance?
A: Testing through the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) lab is free, but healthcare providers may charge to collect the specimen from you. Call the Alabama COVID-19 24/7 hotline at 1-888-264-2256 and ask for free or low-cost testing in your area. Interpreters are available.
Q: What is the current testing criteria for COVID-19?
A: As commercial labs have continued to increase their capacity for testing for the virus causing COVID-19 disease, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) Bureau of Clinical Laboratories (BCL) has refocused its testing efforts toward persons at highest risk for COVID-19 disease and potential adverse outcomes or concerns about infection control (healthcare or long term care workers) which is consistent with federal guidelines. If patients do not meet ADPH criteria and their physician wishes for them to be tested, they should be tested through a commercial laboratory.
ADPH BCL asks that specimens submitted to the state lab follow the criteria below:
The patient is symptomatic with at minimum (measured or subjective fever OR cough OR shortness of breath, and
The patient is hospitalized, or
The patient is immunocompromised or has co-morbidities, or
The patient age 65 years or older, or
The patient is a healthcare worker, or
The patient is associated with a long-term healthcare facility
Comorbidities are defined as chronic lung disease, diabetes, heart disease, chronic kidney disease, immunocompromised, neurologic disorders, pregnancy.
Q: What is the process of getting my results?
A: If your specimen goes to the ADPH lab for testing, when the tests are completed, the results will be sent to your physician and to ADPH. If your test is done in the ADPH lab, your doctor or healthcare provider can look up your test results on our lab electronic result site. If your test is positive, a health department COVID-19 Investigation Team member will call the physician to notify him/her of the results and ask that they notify you as their patient. If your test is positive, a COVID-19 Investigation Team member will call you with further instructions and ask you questions.
If your specimen goes to a commercial lab (private labs who run specimens for tests for COVID-19), the commercial lab will report your test results to your doctor or healthcare provider. Commercial labs are required, by law, to report positive tests to the health department within four hours of getting the results.
Q: When people test positive, are those who have been in contact with them notified?
A: Yes. After the healthcare provider tells the patient that they have a positive result, ADPH contacts the patient to conduct an investigation called a contact interview. They find out where the person has been and who they have been in contact with. Follow-up with contacts are then made.
Q: There is a case in my county? I have a sore throat. Should I get tested?
A: Our Infectious Disease and Outbreak Team (COVID-19 Investigation Team) talks to people who have COVID-19 (cases) to find out where they have been and who they have been in contact with for a specified amount of days. They call and talk to the persons the case has been around (contact or contacts). If you are a contact, a COVID-19 Investigation Team member will call you. Otherwise please contact your healthcare provider if you have questions about being tested. If you don't have a healthcare provider or need additional info, please call the Alabama COVID-19 24/7 hotline at 1-888-264-2256.
Q: Are you receiving results from the drive-thru testing centers? How quickly are those results coming in?
A: The Alabama Department of Public Health gets results from the health department lab and commercial labs. An emergency rule was passed on March 6 that placed SARS-CoV-2 on the list of notifiable diseases for 120 days. This means by law, healthcare providers and labs are to notify ADPH within 4 hours of a presumptive case. This emergency rule re: Alabama Notifiable Diseases/Conditions from March 6 and other emergency actions taken by state agencies as they participate in Alabama’s response to COVID-19 can be found on our General Counsel website.
Q: How often are you updating the public on case counts and deaths?
A: See total cases and deaths organized by county of residence updated in real-time on our COVID-10 web page and on our Alabama's COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard.
Q: Does total tested include results from commercial labs?
A: Total tested reported primarily represents tests that were satisfactorily performed by the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) Bureau of Clinical Laboratories (BCL), along with some data from commercial labs. Commercial labs are required by law to report positive and negative results to ADPH. Some commercial labs are not reporting negative results.
Q: If a patient with a pending test dies before their result comes back, is it captured and reported?
A: All positive and negative COVID-19 tests are required by law to be reported to the Alabama Department of Public Health, and an investigation occurs whether the person is deceased or not.
Q: Do cases have to be confirmed by the CDC?
A: For the purpose of public health action and investigation, lab tests reported as positive by the Bureau of Clinical Laboratories or other labs are considered positive. Thus, all positive tests are included in our case counts. Other labs are required by law to report positive COVID-19 tests to the Alabama Department of Public health within four hours.
Q: What details about cases are reported by the Alabama Department of Public Health?
A: The Alabama Department of Public Health is constantly reviewing and reassessing processes including data reported and its format. We are currently providing demographic data on laboratory-confirmed cases on our website (see Case Characteristics under Current Situation in Alabama) and our COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard (see Case Demographics tab).
Q: Why is it that health officials will not give us more information about who is infected?
A: Alabama Department of Public health (ADPH) cannot disclose patient information due to HIPAA. COVID-19 is a four-hour notifiable disease, by law, in Alabama. People who have COVID-19 (cases) are investigated by ADPH Infectious Disease and Outbreak Division (COVID-19 Investigation Team), and the case goes under home quarantine, unless hospitalized where they are also under quarantine. People who are in close contact (contacts) identified as part of the investigation are notified and placed under home quarantine as well. Places of employment or businesses are contacted as part of the investigation. Cases and contacts are not allowed to be out in public until instructed by ADPH that they may do so.
Q: I heard there is a death in my county. Why does your dashboard not show the death?
A: Our deepest sympathies are with families and friends who lose loved ones during this outbreak. When a death occurs in a person who tested positive for COVID-19, the record is reviewed by an ADPH physician to determine factors related to deaths and whether the death is attributable to COVID-19. This investigation must be completed before any death is included in our official data. If the death is determined to be COVID-19-related, our dashboard will show this.
Q: What does the investigation process for a COVID-19 death look like?
A: When a death occurs in a person who tested positive for COVID-19, the record is reviewed by an ADPH physician to determine factors related to deaths and whether the death is attributable to COVID-19.
Q: How many people have been hospitalized with COVID-19 in Alabama?
A: Total statewide hospitalizations can be found on our COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard. This number is a cumulative total and will not decrease when patients are discharged from the hospital. The number will change as we continue to receive results of tests and investigate cases.
Q: How many employees are working on contact tracing and death investigations related to COVID-19?
A: The Alabama Department of Public Health has at least 85 staff members from various disease control and related backgrounds working on contact tracing and death investigations.
Q: How long might a typical death investigation take in the case of a patient who died after testing positive for COVID-19?
A: Death investigation can take one hour or less once the medical records are received.
Q: Will the numbers go down the people with COVID-19 are no longer symptomatic?
A: Numbers of COVID-19 cases will continue to be counted as cases. Our dashboard will always show cumulative totals.
Q: Will ADPH report the number of recovered cases?
A: Data from ADPH indicates that, at this time, about 15% of the COVID-19 cases in Alabama are hospitalized. This means the remaining patients are at home. These patients are in various stages of their 14-day home quarantine, with some having already completed home quarantine and others remaining at home. As the outbreak continues, we can look at how many patients have completed quarantine as a measure of recovery. However, recovery, or return to feeling well, takes longer in some patients than others. Due to staffing, ADPH is focusing on investigations of cases and contact tracing to reduce the spread of the virus.
Q: Will cases be subtracted from the current number of cases or will it be separately reported?
A: Cases will not be subtracted as this is the data on numbers of total cases.
Q: Why does ADPH not report a case just because the resident lives out of state?
A: Non-residents will not be listed in our case counts. In the event we have a resident from another state test positive in our state, we notify the Health Department in their resident state and that state and the CDC counts the person as a case in the resident’s state. This information is from the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists. (CSTE).
Closings and Canceling Activities
Emergency rules and other emergency actions taken by state agencies as they participate in Alabama’s response to COVID-19 can be found on our General Counsel website.
State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris has issued a health order effective until April 30 which requires every person in Alabama to stay at his or her place of residence except as necessary to perform essential activities. Anyone leaving home must maintain six feet of separation from other people.
Essential activities are defined in the health order and are as follows:
· To obtain necessary supplies
· To obtain or provide necessary services
· To attend religious services
· To take care of others
· To work at essential businesses and operations
· To engage in outdoor activity
· To seek shelter
· To travel as required by law
· To see family members
Essential businesses and operations, listed below, must take all reasonable steps to avoid gatherings of 10 persons or more and maintain a consistent six-foot distance between persons:
· Essential government functions
· Health-care providers and caregivers
· Essential infrastructure
· Manufacturing facilities
· Agricultural operations and farms,
· Essential retailers
· Essential services
· Media operations
· Education operations
· Financial services
· Professional services
· Providers of basic necessities to economically disadvantages populations
· Construction and construction-related services
· Essential public services
· Military or defense operations
· Essential services or product providers
· Religious entities
· Federally designated critical infrastructure
· Other state-designated essential businesses and operations
Effective immediately, any person who has tested positive for COVID-19 shall be quarantined to their place of residence for a period of 14 days after receiving positive test results. Quarantined persons may not leave their place of residence for any reason other than to seek necessary medical treatment.
The statewide order also requires quarantined persons to take precautions as directed by their health care provider or the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) to prevent the spread of the disease to others. Persons needing assistance with their needs while under quarantine may contact Alabama Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD).
Q: When can I leave my home?
You may leave home only to do “essential activities” allowed by the order. For example, you can go get “necessary” services or supplies, and you can help other people (or pets!) get these necessary services or supplies. You can also go to work in some circumstances. There are a few other “essential activities” listed in the order; most are addressed in some way on this FAQ.
Q: May I do X, Y, or Z?
A: The answer depends on the language of the state health order. But before asking whether you can legally do X, Y, or Z, ask yourself, “Is doing X, Y, or Z a good idea?” If doing X, Y, or Z would increase the risk of transmitting COVID-19, try not to do it.
Q: What are “necessary” supplies or services?
A: The order gives several examples of necessary services and supplies—for example, food, pharmaceuticals, gas for your car, and emergency medical care. In each case, the services and supplies must be “necessary” for a person’s (or a pet’s) safety, sanitation, or daily routine. But remember: Always ask yourself whether going somewhere, even for “necessary” supplies and services, would increase the risk of COVID-19.
Q: Can I go to church? What about weddings and funerals?
A: Yes, you may attend these services, but only in limited circumstances. A service can proceed in person if it involves fewer than 10 people spaced at least six feet apart from one another. Or, it can be a “drive in” service where people remain in cars with other people from their household—spaced six feet away from people in other cars. To help prevent COVID-19 transmission, every effort should be made to conduct these services through remote participation.
Q: What can I do outside? Can I play golf or tennis? Can I take my children to the playground? What about boating, hunting, and fishing?
A: Generally, you may go outside as long as you stay six feet apart from other people—and never congregate in a group of 10 or more people. But some outside activities are specifically prohibited—including spectator sports, sports that involve interaction within 6 feet of another person, activities that require the use of shared equipment, and commercial or public playground equipment. In short, keep exercising and go outside—but avoid activities that increase the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Q: Am I allowed to leave home for work?
A: Yes. You may go to work if your workplace is one of the many “essential businesses and operations” listed in the order. Even if your work is not listed as “essential,” you may also go to work if doing so would allow your employer to “maintain” its value (for example, providing security or managing inventory), or if doing so would allow other people to work or shop remotely (including drive-by, curbside, and delivery), or if doing so would require no regular interaction within six feet of another person.
Q: What about cleaning services, remodeling crews, home health workers, and lawn services? In other words, can people come to my home to provide services?
A: It depends. As mentioned above in question 6, people can go to work for an “essential” business or if they will have no regular interaction within six feet of another person. So it may be legal to provide some of these services at your home, especially lawn services. (“Home health workers and aides” are specifically listed as essential.) But always ask, “is this a good idea”? If you can delay the service, delay it.
Q: May I leave my home to transfer custody of my children? What about visiting family?
A: Yes, the order allows people to leave home to travel as required by court order, including specifically the “transportation of children as required by a custody agreement.” You may also visit family, as long as it’s at their place of residence.
Q: When I do leave home, does it matter how I travel? Can I travel by bus? What about airlines?
A: The order does not prohibit any method of travel. But remember: You should make every effort to avoid situations that increase the risk of spreading COVID-19 transmission. If you can delay, delay.
Q: May I continue operating my business?
A: It depends. Under the order, people may leave home for certain work-related reasons, such as to work for one of the many listed “essential business and operations.” People can also leave home to help any business “maintain” its value (e.g., security, payroll, inventory), to enable other people to work or shop remotely (including curbside pickup or delivery), or if their work requires no regular interaction within six feet of another person. Some businesses, however—the entertainment venues, athletic facilities, and “close contact” service providers listed in paragraph 5—are specifically closed to nonemployees.
Q: How do I know if a business or operation may continue operating as “essential”?
A: Please refer to the list of essential businesses and operations in paragraph 2 of the order. Note especially that paragraph 2 incorporates this list of essential infrastructure from the federal government.
Q: What if I operate a store that is not an “essential” business or operation, but the store is not specifically ordered to close—for example, furniture stores, clothing stores, beauty supply stores, or tobacco stores. May I continue operating my store? May I at least offer curbside pickup or delivery?
A: See FAQ above, as well as paragraph 1 of the order allowing people to leave home to get “necessary” services and supplies. Taken together, these rules can be boiled down to this: “You can always deliver. And if the customer can leave their house for it, you can meet them at the curb.”
Q: What if my business provides services but is not on the “essential” list and is not specifically closed—for example, pet groomers, home cleaning services, or lawn services? May I continue operating my business?
A: It depends. As mentioned above, people can leave home to work if they will have no regular interaction within six feet of another person. So home cleaning services and lawn services conceivably may continue to operate. If you provide a service that requires customers to leave their homes, remember that they may leave only to get “necessary” services as defined in paragraph 1 of the order.
Q: May I change my business model to become an “essential” business or operation?
A: Yes, if your business truly becomes an essential business or operation. But if you try to circumvent the order without fully becoming an essential business or operation, then you are in violation of the order and will face criminal liability.
Q: If I may continue operating my business, what steps must I take to protect customers and employees?
A: Essential businesses and operations must take “all reasonable steps” to avoid gatherings of 10 or more persons. They also must take “all reasonable steps” to keep customers and employees six feet apart from one another. Beyond that, “essential retailers”—for example, grocery stores, pharmacies, and “big box” stores—must implement a 50% “emergency maximum occupancy rate,” keep customers six feet apart, and follow sanitation guidelines from public health authorities. For details, see paragraph 6 of the order. And remember: Even if your business may continue operating, you are always encouraged to go above and beyond the requirements of the order to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Q: May I continue operating my childcare center?
A: Child day care facilities may continue to operate if 12 or more children are not allowed in a room or other enclosed space at the same time. These facilities are encouraged to use enhanced sanitation and social distancing practices consistent with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Alabama Department of Public Health.
Q: If I may continue operating my business, will the government provide my employees “credentials” to allow them to go to and from work?
A: No, the government will not be issuing credentials. But you can do so, if you would like to. The decision whether to issue credentials to your employees is left up to you.
Effective 5 p.m. March 28, the list of businesses, venues, and activities below will be closed to non-employees or not take place:
- Night clubs
- Bowling alleys
- Concert Venues
- Theaters, auditoriums, and performing arts centers
- Tourist attractions (including museums and planetariums)
- Indoor children's play areas
- Adult entertainment venues
- Bingo Halls
- Venues operated by social clubs
Athletic facilities and activities:
- Fitness centers and commercial gyms
- Spas and public or commercial swimming pools
- Yoga, barre, and spin facilities
- Spectator sports
- Activities on commercial or public playground equipment
- Sports that involve interaction with another person of closer than 6 feet
- Activities that require use of shared sporting apparatus and equipment
- Activities on commercial or public playground equipment
Close-contact service providers:
- Barber shops
- Hair salons
- Waxing salons
- Threading salons
- Nail salons and spas
- Body-art facilities and tattoo services
- Tanning salons
- Massage-therapy establishments and massage services
- Furniture and home-furnishings stores
- Clothing, shoe, and clothing-accessory stores
- Jewelry, luggage, and leather goods stores
- Department stores
- Sporting goods stores
- Book, craft, and music stores
Q: Must businesses or venues that may remain open limit the number of customers inside at one time?
A: It depends. The order’s social-distancing rule, in paragraph 1, prohibits “non-work related gatherings” of 10 persons or more or non-work related gatherings of any size that cannot maintain a consistent 6-foot distance between persons. So the question is whether the customers are “gathering.” In a large, uncrowded grocery store, for example, where customers may easily walk past one another, it is unlikely that any “gathering” is taking place even if many more than 10 people are inside. On the other hand, a group of 10 people congregating in a confined space over an extended length of time would be more likely to constitute a gathering.
Q: May retail stores ordered to close offer delivery or curbside services?
A: Yes. The order requires certain categories of retail “stores” to be “closed to non-employees.” This language requires the closure of the store building to customers but would not preclude delivery or curbside services if the store complies with the order’s other provisions, such as the socialdistancing rules.
Q: What about “big box” stores? In other words, must a retail store close if it has some characteristics of a store listed for closure but is not generally considered to fall within one of the specific listed categories?
A: Remember, if a store is not on the list, it’s not closed. So a “big box” store would not be closed—though it still must comply with the order’s other provisions.
Q: What do I do if I cannot tell whether my store or venue must close? For example, is a mattress store a “furniture” or “home-furnishings store"? Is a sewing-machine store a “craft” store? Is a drive-in theater a “theater"?
A: Remember, if a store is not on the list, it’s not closed. But in cases that are truly difficult to answer, a store owner should contact local law enforcement for guidance. The Attorney General has cautioned law enforcement that “the unprecedented nature of this pandemic and the government’s evolving response seem to demand some restraint related to criminal enforcement of this order,” and local law
enforcement can obtain guidance from appropriate state authorities in truly difficult cases.
Q: May sporting goods stores and other retail stores that sell firearms and ammunition remain open to customers inside the store?
A: The order specifically lists “sporting goods stores” for closure, so a sporting goods store must close even if it sells firearms and ammunition. Gun shops, on the other hand, are not specifically listed; thus, they may remain open.
Q: Can physical therapists and chiropractors continue to provide therapy services to patients under the order?
A: Yes. Physical therapists and chiropractors are medical providers subject to the rule. But, like other providers of dental, medical, or surgical procedures, they may provide services that are necessary to treat an emergency medical condition, or are necessary for a patient to avoid serious harm from an underlying condition or disease, or are a necessary part of a patient’s ongoing and active treatment.
Q: How do I report a business that is not following the current state health order?
A: Violations of the latest March 27 order should be reported to local law enforcement authorities. Violators will be subject to criminal penalties for willful non-compliance with this order. See all COVID-19 emergency actions taken by state agencies on our General Counsel website.
Q: Should elective procedures like a colonoscopy or teeth cleanings be postponed?
A: Effective March 19, elective dental and medical procedures should be delayed. This emergency rule and other emergency actions taken by state agencies as they participate in Alabama’s response to COVID-19 can be found on our General Counsel website. Also see Alabama Dental Treatment Protocol Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic.
Q: Can I go to the beach?
A: Effective March 19, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. beaches, whether publicly or privately owned and including beach access points, in Alabama are closed per State Health Office Emergency Order from March 19. This emergency order and other emergency actions taken by state agencies as they participate in Alabama’s response to COVID-19 can be found on our General Counsel website.
Q: Is it safe to go to a shelter during a weather threat?
A: Decisions made to open shelters are made at the local and county level due to weather threats. The shelter and persons can take as many precautions within the shelter as possible to enhance social distancing and promote respiratory hygiene. At this time, ADPH is recommending that citizens' first priority should be to protect themselves from a potential tornado. If a warning is issued in your area, you are more likely to be affected by the tornado than the virus. Thus, people should heed tornado warnings and take appropriate shelter.
Q: Can I get COVID-19 from wastewater or sewage?
A: WHO has indicated that “there is no evidence to date that COVID-19 virus has been transmitted via sewerage systems, with or without wastewater treatment.”
Q: Do wastewater treatment plants treat COVID-19?
A: Yes, wastewater treatment plants treat viruses and other pathogens. COVID-19 is a type of virus that is particularly susceptible to disinfection. Standard treatment and disinfectant processes at wastewater treatment plants are expected to be effective.
Q: Will my septic system treat COVID-19?
A: While decentralized wastewater treatment (i.e., septic tanks) do not disinfect, EPA expects a properly managed septic system to treat COVID-19 the same way it safely manages other viruses often found in wastewater. Additionally, when properly installed, a septic system is located at a distance and location designed to avoid impacting a water supply well.
Q: Should I worry about COVID-19 contamination on my food?
A: Food hasn't been identified as a likely source of COVID-19 spread at this time. However, food safety practices routinely performed at home and work can help reduce the spread of coronavirus and other respiratory viruses in our community. Even if restaurants temporarily close for in-person dining, they may continue filling take-out orders and deliveries.
When handling food, use a barrier like tongs, gloves or other utensils to prevent direct hand contact with food. To help reduce illness, wash, rinse and sanitize tongs and other utensils in self-service areas often throughout the day.
Q: Does ADPH require food establishments to inform ADPH is an employee has tested positive for COVID-19 specifically?
A: Food establishments are under no special reporting requirements as COVID-19 is not a foodborne illness, it's a respiratory illness. However, COVID-19 is a reportable disease and the Health Department is notified of all positive cases.
Q: Is ADPH required to inform the public if a food establishment worker has tested positive?
A: The Health Department only reports the county of a positive case.
Q: Is it the public's right to know if a food service worker tested positive for an infectious disease that could have been exposed to customers, employees, and the general public?
A: The State Health Officer prohibited on-premises dining on March 20, 2020 to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19. Drive-thru or curbside pick-up minimize risk of exposure. ADPH has protocols in place to investigate all positive COVID-19 cases.
Page last updated: April 9, 2020