The efforts to reopen Alabama’s economy continue this week, as Gov. Kay Ivey relaxed more regulations in her “Safer-at-Home” initiative. In the process of deciding what to open and when, state and health officials continue to look at data to see what effects the regulations have on the number of COVID-19 cases reported and deaths attributed to the disease.
The question is: which pieces of data are government officials using to gauge the effects?
The Alabama Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 web page shows the raw number of cases and deaths continue to increase, and the number of additional cases each day has been 221 or more for the seven-day period of May 7-13.
Those daily-increase numbers have fluctuated significantly in that period, while a seven-day moving average over that time has stayed between 282 and 293 per day. While moving averages tend to smooth out bumps in data sometimes caused by reporting issues, it is still fluctuating — trending upward a bit again after topping out near 305 new cases on average per day on April 15.
But those raw numbers will tend to increase more as additional tests are administered across the state, so another way to look for trends is to use the percentage increase in cases. The daily figures show a general downward trend beginning May 2, when the number of positive cases went up by 4.17%. The daily percentage increases stayed in the 3% range for a week and have trended downward to 2.21% on Wednesday — the third-lowest percentage since the pandemic began. The seven-day moving average showed a peak of 3.54% on May 8 and has trended downward each day since.
State officials have not said what data trends they would consider as indicating success in the battle against COVID-19. Moreover, it takes generally five days to two weeks for symptoms to appear after exposure to the virus, so effects of changes are not immediately known.
As of late Wednesday night, the figures posted by the Alabama Department of Public Health on its COVID-19 web page show that 10,700 people have tested positive, and 450 deaths have been attributed to the virus. The positive case total passed the 10,000 mark on Monday, the same day that the statewide death toll surpassed 400.
The seven-day moving average of daily new cases stood at 287.00 on Wednesday, after moving in a short range during the previous week. The moving average of new deaths was 15.29; that number has trended upward for three weeks.
In county-by-county numbers, Mobile County once again has the most cases and deaths, with the margin increasing further over Jefferson County. Mobile County has tallied 1,545 positive cases versus Jefferson County’s 1,199. In the previous week, Jefferson County tested almost 7,000 additional people.
Mobile County has 96 COVID-19 deaths, 20 more than the previous week, compared to 64 in Jefferson, which was up nine from the previous week.
There was a big relative increase in Tallapoosa County, up to 51 deaths from 23 last week — a 122% hike. Lee County is fourth with 30, which is up 1; and Chambers County is fifth with 22, the same number of deaths it had last week.
In metro Birmingham, Shelby County reports 18 deaths, two more than last week. Tuscaloosa doubled to eight, and St. Clair remained at one. Bibb County reported its first death, while Walker and Blount counties still have reported no deaths due to the virus.
Here is the Health Department’s full list of counties with number of cases, number of tests for the disease and deaths.
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