UAB Doctor Urges Personal Responsibility for Stemming Rise in COVID-19 Cases

Dr. Rachael Lee (Source: UAB)

UAB epidemiologist Dr. Rachael Lee today said that Alabamians will have to exercise personal responsibility to keep the state’s increasing COVID-19 infections from overwhelming the health care system.

Lee said that the increasing number of positive cases is “concerning,” particularly as the state increasingly relaxes restrictions and as the number of tests administered remains steady. Alabama is one of several states being watched because the number of confirmed positive cases of the potentially deadly viral infection are going up.

Lee held UAB’s weekly coronavirus press conference the day after the largest single day increase in coronavirus cases in the state.

“We are seeing nearly 16,000 cases of COVID-19 here in Alabama with about 600 deaths. Our numbers continue to increase and over the past week they’ve continued to go up. Part of that is with testing — we’ve opened up more testing — but part of that is likely due to having more people open and out and around. So it’s a little bit concerning to us as infectious disease experts as we see this continuing upward trend.”

Lee said that “the increased numbers that we’re seeing are from a variety of issues. Number one, a lot of those testing sites may have been closed for Memorial Day weekend. And so we may be seeing an increased number of cases just because they weren’t able to get to those sites.

“Second, is increased number of testing but if you look over the past seven days in Alabama, we’ve had consistently about the same number of testing throughout the state. So, I think we can safely say that, while we’ve increased across the board, it’s remained steady for the past seven days.

“So this increase that we’re seeing is concerning to me and part of that may be due to relaxing some restrictions. Part of it may be not wearing masks in public or having larger events, which is what we would be concerned about for Memorial Day weekend.”

Wearing masks and maintaining social distancing are necessary to keep the number of patients manageable and to make sure that hospital workers continue to have enough personal protective equipment to safely care for coronavirus patients, Lee said.

The epidemiologist also warned about a second and even a third wave of infections as the pandemic wears on through the fall. She sounded a hopeful note that a vaccine and a successful treatment regimen will be found – particularly noting early positive results with remdesivir.

Lee spoke at UAB’s weekly press conference to offer updates on the fight against coronavirus. This report will be updated with more detail later today.