Health Officials Urge Public to Redouble Social Distancing Efforts as Cases in Alabama Shoot Up

Rojo, a restaurant on Highland Avenue, shared Benjamin Franklin’s advice as Alabama was on the cusp of starting to reopen. (Source: Tom Gordon)

State health officials are pressing the message that Alabamians need to protect themselves as COVID-19 cases in the state continue their sharp increase.

Sunday morning, 1,014 new confirmed cases of the disease were reported to have been diagnosed in the previous 24 hours. New cases topped 800 for each of the three days before that.

“COVID-19 spreads quickly, and your actions affect others,” state Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said in a statement. “More than ever since the pandemic began, we need people to social distance, wear face coverings in public, and practice good respiratory hygiene.”

In total, the state has had 25,235 cases of the disease since the pandemic began in March and 768 deaths. Another 380 people recently have been listed as ‘probable’ cases of coronavirus, but their diagnoses have not been confirmed.

Dr. Karen Landers of the Alabama Department of Public Health also urged the public to take precautions.

The number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 Friday was 622, that number marked the highest number of hospitalizations since the pandemic began in March.

Dr. Don Williamson of the Alabama Hospital Association said the number of people hospitalized is the best measure of the prevalence of COVID-19, because these patients have been tested and are being treated for the disease.

“This tells me that COVID is not going away, and it is not getting better,” Williamson said, “and that there are ongoing transmissions of the disease. It is an ugly curve of the increase in the number of cases.”

He said Montgomery hospitals are the ones with the greatest stress on their bed capacities, especially ICU beds. They are generally filled, Williamson said. Cases have been rising precipitously in Montgomery County in recent weeks.

Friday Alabama U.S. Sen. Doug Jones also urged Alabamians to continue adhering to social-distancing guidelines, to listen to public health officials and to wear masks. He said reopening the economy and preserving public health don’t have to be at odds.

“I think the governor has done as great a job as she could to try to be very strategic, to be thoughtful on how to do this,” Jones said. “Unfortunately, I also believe that a lot of people in Alabama are only hearing part of her message. They’re only hearing the message that you can go to church, you can go to the theater, you can go out to eat, and they’re not listening as much to the messages about personal reliability.”

Reasons for Increases

Health officials point to gatherings on Memorial Day as one of the reasons that there has been an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in Alabama and elsewhere. They’ve also feared that protests in recent weeks could spread the disease even more, while acknowledging racism as potentially deadly, as well.

The state also opened up more fully in late May.

As of May 22, Alabama’s Safer-at-Home order allowed businesses, services and entertainment venues to open with restrictions, such as limiting the number of people allowed in an establishment and requiring six feet minimum distance between groups of people.

It encourages everyone, particularly people who are more vulnerable to the disease, to minimize travel outside their homes, wear face coverings when they do leave home, and frequently wash their hands and sanitize objects. It also requires people who have tested positive for the coronavirus to quarantine themselves for 14 days.

The Safer-at-Home order is in effect until July 3, at which point it will be determined whether to extend or change the order.

Gov. Kay Ivey’s office could not be contacted Sunday.