Alabamians are enjoying a return to something slightly closer to the old, pre-COVID-19 lifestyle, but a steeper increase in the number of new positive cases in the past week could prove worrisome for government officials as they seek to further loosen the reins on the public and reopen the economy.
The number of new cases rose by more than 22% during the seven-day period ending Wednesday compared to the week before, which itself had shown the highest rate of increase in cases since the pandemic began. The most recent figures show that 16,032 people have tested positive for coronavirus since testing began in March, according to data updated daily by the Alabama Department of Public Health. The total stood at 13,052 last week, giving the state an increase of 2,980 cases this week.
In the weekly analysis of the ADPH data compiled each Wednesday night, BirminghamWatch takes a snapshot of the data between 11 p.m. and midnight. Because of differing schedules of updates, our figures may not exactly coincide with those reported by other news media or the state.
In the past seven-day period, the moving average of new daily cases jumped from 336 on May 20 to 425.71 Wednesday. On Tuesday, the average was 467.71 — the highest number recorded by BirminghamWatch since weekly moving averages were calculated beginning March 19.
The rate of increase in the number of deaths blamed on COVID-19 has slowed down, however. In the past seven days, 61 deaths were reported, bringing the state death toll to 583. The seven-day moving daily average dipped to 8.00 on Thursday, May 21, the lowest point in the month beforehand. After an upward bump on Monday and Tuesday, the average at the end of the weekly reporting period was 8.71.
Overall testing continues at increased numbers across the state, though the ADPH numbers for the most recent week available — May 17-23 — showed a decline in total tested from the previous week, with 24,776 tests taken compared to 30,046.
But while increases in testing have been widely assumed to move the raw number of positive results upward, the most recent week’s numbers as a percentage have ticked sharply higher as well, with 12.2% of those tested shown as positive compared to 9.5% the week before.
The ADPH COVID-19 online dashboard showed late Wednesday that 197,928 people have been tested in Alabama so far, with 72,672 of those coming in the past 14 days, which is more than 36.7% of the overall total since March.
The dashboard also shows that, of the 16,032 total cases in Alabama, 9,355 are “presumed recoveries.” ADPH arrives at that number by counting cases in which “… it has been 14 days or more since the case tested positive if they were not hospitalized, or if it has been 32 days or more since the case tested positive if they were hospitalized or if hospitalization was unknown,” according to the dashboard.
Gov. Kay Ivey released her “Safer at Home” amended orders three weeks ago, with additional changes Friday that allowed theaters, bowling centers and similar entertainment venues to reopen subject to several guidelines. In Jefferson County, however, those venues are closed until June 6 by order of the county’s Department of Health.
Under Ivey’s order, educational institutions may reopen June 1, and child care facilities and summer camps may also open under specific regulations. Additionally, athletic activities were allowed to resume with practices last Saturday, and competition will begin on June 15.
Previously, Ivey amended her order to allow groups to gather on Gulf Coast beaches in unlimited numbers, rather than capping group size at 10 people, as long as the six-foot separation rule is observed. That resulted in large crowds along beaches throughout the Memorial Day weekend.
In county data, Mobile County is still at the top in both positive cases and deaths, with 2,085 cases among 20,132 people tested, an increase of 263 cases during the week; plus 112 deaths, which is 10 more than last week.
Jefferson County tallied 1,673 positives in 35,567 tests, an increase of 240 cases; and 97 deaths, which was an increase of 14.
Montgomery County is seeing a sharp rise in positive cases with 1,446, a 45% increase in one week. The county has made news in the past few days as available intensive care beds have dwindled because of the increase in COVID-19 cases.
Marshall County still ranks fourth with 660 cases, but the increase from the previous week is just 19. The rural county previously had been described as a “hotspot” because of the high number of cases relative to the county population. But in a report Wednesday by al.com, Marshall County officials say that there are now no COVID-19 patients in the county’s two hospitals, in Guntersville and Boaz.
In the counties around Birmingham, Tuscaloosa has reported a jump to 632 cases, now fifth in the state; the increase from the previous week is 46.6%. Shelby County has 470 positive cases, an increase of 56 cases. Walker County has seen a sharp jump from 164 to 282; St. Clair County is up to 108; Bibb County has 71; and Blount County has 53. Shelby County reports 19 deaths, a number that has remained the same for several weeks, while Tuscaloosa County lists 12. Walker, Bibb, St. Clair and Blount counties remain at one death each.
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