As Alabama is set to begin a slow relaxation of restrictions in daily life made because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rate of increase in the number of new cases in Alabama has lessened a bit — but not enough to satisfy one of the “gating criteria” in President Donald Trump’s “Opening Up America Again” plan for phased comebacks.
The number of new cases added to the state’s cumulative total each day has fluctuated, with numbers of new cases in the past seven days ranging from 222 on April 23 to 118 this past Monday. As of late Wednesday night, the Alabama Department of Public Health reports that there are 6,925 cases COVID-19, an increase of 1,315 from a week before. Deaths in Alabama attributed to the virus stand at 262, which is 65 more deaths in the past seven days.
BirminghamWatch has compiled a seven-day rolling average of daily increases in cases and deaths, which smooths out the change rates to offset jumps caused by large new batches of public tests, for instance. The average number of new daily cases for the past seven-day period stands at 187.86, compared to 195.57 for the seven-day period ending on April 22. In the past week, that rolling average has peaked at 216.86. Going back to when cases were first reported on March 14, the highest rolling average was on April 15, when an average of 304.86 new cases had been reported each day from the previous week.
Similarly, the seven-day rolling average of deaths reported each day currently stands at 9.29. In the past seven days, the average has been in the range of 8.00 to 9.29; it climbed Wednesday because of 34 total deaths tallied that day and Tuesday. Since the first COVID-19 death in Alabama was announced on March 26, the highest seven-day rolling average has been on April 22, at 10.57 new deaths. The average has reached 10 or more on four days.
The rate of increase in cases is important because Trump’s reopening plan requires that rate to be flat or decreasing for a period of 14 consecutive days. Alabama Public Health Officer Dr. Scott Martin said Tuesday that this requirement has not yet been met, and that’s one of the main reasons that more restrictions were not removed in Ivey’s “Safer at Home” plan, which replaces her initial stay-at-home order, which expires Thursday at 5 p.m.
In the county-by-county numbers, Mobile County’s total of COVID-19 cases has surpassed the 1,000 mark; its 1,041 cases are 160 more than Jefferson County’s 881 cases. Lee County is third with 386 cases, while Shelby, Montgomery and Marshall counties are virtually tied around the 318 mark.
Significantly, Mobile County has reported far fewer test results than Jefferson, which leads the state with 4,116 tests. Madison County is just behind with 4,096, while third-place Mobile County has tested 1,962 people.
Mobile County also leads the state in the number of deaths with 53. Jefferson County has 44 deaths; Lee County has 28; Chambers County counts 21; and Tallapoosa County reports 18 deaths. There have been 11 COVID-19-caused deaths in Shelby County, while Tuscaloosa County has had only one person to die from the coronavirus.
Five counties still report 10 positive cases or fewer, and 23 counties — including Walker, Blount, St. Clair and Bibb in the metropolitan Birmingham area — have yet to report a death caused by COVID-19.
In Tuesday’s press conference announcing the easing of the closure order, both Ivey and Harris admitted that much more testing must be done to get a more accurate reading of how COVID-19 is affecting the state and how quickly officials can proceed to reopen more of Alabama’s economy. Increased testing will likely push the number of cases upward, and possibly deaths as well.
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