Alabama is moving toward 20,000 COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic. Even more troubling are the 5,572 new positives cases identified in the last 14 days statewide. The death toll has risen to 685. Healthcare officials are attempting to determine if the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Tuscaloosa and other locations across the state are a result from reopening Alabama just before the long Memorial Day weekend.

Alabama beaches were packed, crowds were back on Lake Tuscaloosa and other state waterways, parties were taking place all over as Alabamians celebrated loosened health restrictions and stay-at-home orders by congregating together.

The timing of the jump fits with the 14-day incubation period for the coronavirus. But when examined closer, the figures reveal there are other factors playing into the higher numbers - nursing homes, long-term care and rehabilitation facilities, in-person church services along with the parties and gatherings may have combined to exacerbate the problem.

"We know a little of this has to do with increased testing," Alabama Officer Dr. Scott Harris told West Alabama Congresswoman Terri Sewell during a Facebook Live presentation, "but I don't think that explains all of it."

Northport's Forest Manor Nursing Home and now Hunter Creek have been hit with infestation of the virus. It became so bad across Alabama that National Guard decontamination teams were sent to disinfect almost 200 nursing homes and extended care facilities across the state.  They completed that mission yesterday (Friday) but a small task force will remain on duty to respond to nursing home hot spots that popup in the future.

The surge in virus cases pushed up the number of patients being treated at DCH Regional Medical Center, placing Tuscaloosa County on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "National COVID-19 County Watch List" and in the top five counties in the state for positive cases. There have now been 896 positives and 17 deaths in Tuscaloosa County.

Inpatient cases and persons under investigation (PUI) for the virus swelled beginning last weekend. They were just lower than the statewide upwards trend. However, the last few days have seen new cases abate a bit at DCH, down to 64 this morning after reaching 95. 23 people are being treated in intensive care with eight on ventilators, both lower numbers than last weekend. The upward trend has flattened over the last three days.

One of the major questions still to be answered is the impact racial justice protests will have on COVI19 statistics. A study of the large groups gathering in cities across Alabama found only about half the participants were wearing masks and other protection.

The pandemic is not going away any time soon. CDC metrics reveal while national cases are beginning to decline, Alabama's trajectory is still on an upward trend.

Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox is pleading with citizens to continue to take the virus seriously and remain vigilant. "Think about more than just yourself," Maddox recently told Townsquare Media Tuscaloosa. "Think about your family. Think about your community." Maddox adds, "You may not show symptoms but you could still be spreading the virus." That is why Maddox is mandating the wearing of masks on all city property and at city events.

Dr. Harris is concerned that statistics can overshadow the truth of the pandemic, "Each one of those numbers is a person -someone's parent or child or brother or sister - and so we never want to lose sight of the fact we are having Alabamians who are dying from COVID-19."

If you have symptoms and do not have a healthcare provider, please call 1-888-264-2256. For general questions about COVID-19, call the Alabama COVID-19 hotline at 1-800-270-7268 from 7 am to 9 pm.


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