As the COVID-19 pandemic enters its third month, the number of positive cases reported by the state and the number of deaths attributed to the virus have taken some erratic turns, especially in the past few days.
One thing is presently clear, however: the data is not yet moving in the direction that state health officials would like, particularly as Gov. Kay Ivey’s moves to relax restrictions have been in place long enough to have a possible effect on the data.
The seven-day moving average of new cases reported each day has set a new high since that average was first calculated by BirminghamWatch on March 19.
In the past seven-day period, the number of new cases each day has grown markedly, with two of the highest daily increases falling in that time frame. Wednesday’s new-case numbers showed a big jump over 24 hours — 676 new positive results, which is more than 50% higher than the previous high of 424 new cases on April 11. Furthermore, the seven-day period began with an increase of 401 cases on Thursday, May 14, the third-highest daily increase.
As of late Wednesday night, the figures posted by the Alabama Department of Public Health show that 13,052 people have tested positive and 522 deaths have been attributed to the virus. That’s an increase of 2,352 positive cases (up just less than 22%) from last week and 72 deaths (up 16%).
The seven-day moving average of daily new cases finished the period at 336.00. That’s 49 cases per day more than the average for the week ending May 13.
But the moving average of new deaths per day was 10.29 in the current period, which is a sharp decline from the 15.29 average in the previous seven days. Three days out of the past seven had a total of just six deaths reported.
The trend upward in most data sets is causing some alarm for State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, who commented in an interview with the Alabama Political Reporter on May 17 that “(t)he numbers are not headed in the right direction, especially in some parts of the state.”
It’s been 10 days since Ivey released her amended “Safer at Home” order that allows restaurants to reopen with limited table seating, close-contact service providers such as barber shops and hair salons to operate under certain guidelines, and Gulf Coast beaches to open to unlimited gatherings, as long as the six-foot separation rule is observed. The first wave of openings, allowing stores and businesses to reopen with restrictions and elective medical procedures to resume, took effect May 1.
The general rule of thumb is that COVID-19 takes five days to about two weeks to incubate, so increases in positive cases and deaths plausibly could be linked to relaxed restrictions. UAB doctors said Wednesday that they are not sure whether the increases in confirmed COVID-19 cases are a result of testing more people or increased community transmission, but either way it prompted them to urge people to continue social distancing and hygiene practices.
Cases by County
Mobile County still remains atop the county numbers in both positive cases and deaths, with 1,822 cases among 16,902 people tested and 106 deaths, which is 10 more than last week. Jefferson County tallied 1,433 positives in 30,856 tests and had 83 deaths, up by 19.
Montgomery County has seen a marked uptick in positive cases with 994, third highest in the state. Marshall County now ranks fourth with 641 cases, followed by Lee County with 461. In the Birmingham area, Tuscaloosa has reported 431 cases (sixth in the state), Shelby County has 414 (seventh), Walker County has 164, St. Clair County 95, Bibb County 52 and Blount County has 47. Shelby County reports 19 deaths, Tuscaloosa County has tallied eight, while Walker, Bibb, St. Clair and Blount counties have reported one death each.
Here is the full list of counties with number of cases, number of tests for the disease and deaths.
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