The biggest challenge to stopping the spread of COVID-19 now is the public’s desire to return to the “old normal,” Dr. Molly Fleece, UAB assistant professor of infectious diseases, said Wednesday.
“Masks work,” Fleece said as UAB and other health officials brace for increased summer activities and the Fourth of July.
The number of COVID-19 cases in the state rose Wednesday by 954, one of the largest daily increases since the pandemic began, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.
Fleece said that, over the past 24 hours, Mobile and Lee counties had their highest number of new cases recorded.
Jefferson, Mobile, Montgomery and Tuscaloosa continue to have high numbers of new cases documented every day.
She said the spike in the number of cases can be attributed to summer travel and COVID fatigue as people just want to go back to their old lifestyles.
Nationwide, the country reported 35,000 cases of COVID-19 today, the third-highest increase since the pandemic began and the highest single-day increase since April, according to the New York Times.
Alabama is one of the states showing the fastest increase in cases.
New York, New Jersey and Connecticut told travelers in nine states that they must quarantine themselves for 14 days if they visit. Alabama is on that list. Previously, Kansas also required Alabama travelers or anyone who has gone through Alabama, to quarantine themselves immediately upon entering that state.
In New York, travelers aren’t checked at the border. But travelers caught not following the order could face fines of up to $10,000 and be put into mandatory quarantine, the governor said today.
Long-Term Health Effects; Self-Protection
Fleece also said Health officials are continuing to learn more about the long-term impacts of the coronavirus on people who have had it.
“We know there is the potential for lasting lung damage, whether it is decreased exercise tolerance, increased shortness of breath or the need for supplemental oxygen for a while, as well as the lasting effects on the heart and potentially the immune system.”
Fleece urged people planning summer activities to adopt a new normal: wearing masks, washing hands, avoiding crowds and physically distancing.
She suggested those planning to travel or eat in restaurants consider doing so in off-hours when there are fewer people.
At the beach, keep social distances and choose less crowded beaches, she suggested.
The largest increase in COVID-19 cases has been among people aged 25-49 — the age group most likely to socialize. In Alabama, 41.5 percent of all cases since the pandemic now are among people in that age group, according to Department of Public Health Data.
“Masks work and their use will affect how many cases we have in the state,” Fleece said.
She said she believes orders mandating the use of masks would work better if issued at the local level than at the state government, because that would give more control to local officials, she said.
“We are keeping an eye on how officials approach the topic,” she said.