6 cases of coronavirus confirmed in Alabama

Gov. Kay Ivey declared a state of emergency Friday night
Updated: Mar. 14, 2020 at 10:03 AM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Alabama now has six confirmed cases of coronavirus.

The first case was reported in Montgomery County. The second is a person in Jefferson County.

Friday night, the Alabama Department of Health updated its website to say there are now six confirmed cases in the state. Five of the cases are from in-state and one other is from out of town. The locations are:

  • Elmore County - 1 case
  • Jefferson County - 1 case
  • Limestone County - 1 case
  • Montgomery County - 1 case
  • Tuscaloosa County - 1 case
  • Out of Town - 1 case

Friday evening, State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris confirmed there were preliminary reports of three additional cases that would have brought the total to five.

Gov. Kay Ivey declared a state of emergency Friday night and said all K-12 schools will close for two and half weeks starting at the close of business Wednesday.

ADPH will open a call center Saturday for those who have questions about testing and how to connect to providers. The number is 1-888-264-2256. This is not a medical helpline.

Maxwell Air Force Base confirmed Friday afternoon a civilian employee who works at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base tested positive for coronavirus and was the state’s first case. The person returned to Alabama after traveling to Illinois and reported not feeling well. Medical agencies off-base are treating the individual.

“The civilian employee is the first confirmed case in the state of Alabama,” said Col. Patrick Carley, 42nd Air Base Wing commander. “The individual is being evaluated and treated by health care professionals. The continued safety of our community is of upmost importance. We are working with our base medical staff and other off base health care agencies to ensure we mitigate the effects of COVID-19 in accordance with established CDC and DOD guidelines.”

Baptist Health says Montgomery’s Baptist Medical Center East is treating a patient with coronavirus.

It’s unclear if this is one of the five cases Harris announced, but he said he was only aware of one confirmed case in Montgomery County.

Baptist Health says there is no reason to panic or cancel an appointment if you are scheduled for medical care. The hospital has maintained a log of the people who have been in contact with the patient and turned that over to state health officials.

“Baptist Health team members have been preparing for this for months and are well prepared,” Baptist Health said in a news release.

Officials confirmed Alabama’s first case of COVID-19, or coronavirus, during a Friday morning news conference.

The Alabama Department of Public Health said a Montgomery County resident who traveled outside the state returned and was tested Thursday. The results of that test came back positive around 8 a.m. Friday.

“We have been expecting this for some time now,” Harris said. “We have been waiting to identify our case and finally found our first case this morning.”

ADPH would not provide any identifiable information on the person for privacy reasons. That includes the person’s age or gender. Harris could say the person has other “chronic health problems” that put them at risk.

Epidemiologists were reaching out to the person “so that we can continue to do the contact tracing that we do and try to learn whether there are other contacts that need to be identified or investigated,” Harris said.

The ADPH said the person self-isolated at home once they started to feel unwell, though it wasn’t immediately clear when those symptoms began. The person remains under the care of their own physician and there’s no indication they are at a hospital.

“We have liberalized the criteria that we are using for accepting tests, and now a physician who has a test that they would like to order on a patient will have the test automatically approved," Harris said.

ADPH says the testing turn around is between 24-72 hours. They have apparently received a number of tests over the last few days and expect to test around a dozen more on Friday.

[More coverage on coronavirus]

Gov. Kay Ivey’s office released this statement:

“Along with my fellow Alabamians, I have closely monitored the rapidly changing events regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19). As a state, we have taken precautionary measures and made preparations in the case that the virus would eventually reach our state. As I have emphasized time and again, the safety and health of Alabamians is paramount.

“Alabamians are smart and savvy, and I know they will continue taking appropriate precautions to prevent the spread to themselves or others. We have taken a calm and collected approach in preparation for this first confirmed case, and we need to remember that calm and steady wins the race. Alabamians should not be fearful, but instead, use commonsense to watch out for themselves and others. We will remain engaged on the matter and continue prioritizing the health and wellbeing of all Alabamians.

“I am grateful to the work of State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, as well as the members of my Coronavirus Task Force and countless individuals who are also watching and working on this situation closely.”

State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris released the following statement:

"The Alabama Department of Public Health has worked hard to prepare and has anticipated receiving a report of the first case of COVID-19 in an Alabama resident. We continue to recommend that people be prudent and encourage them to use proper hygiene behaviors such as handwashing, not touching their faces with unwashed hands, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home if they have fever. As a precaution, it is suggested that any gatherings of more than 500 people be postponed or canceled.”

Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed said, effective immediately, all city-sponsored events at city facilities are canceled. That includes the SLE Rodeo where officers would be providing security. City and county services such as police, fire, and sanitation will continue as normal.

Reed said there is a concern that the healthcare system could be overwhelmed, so residents need to be proactive in order to slow down the rate of spread and to keep hospitals in operation. He is asking all institutions to look at their crowded events going forward and asking all citizens to limit contact with the public.

Baptist Health is implementing a new hospital visitor policy. Effective immediately, the following policies apply to Baptist Medical Center East, Baptist Medical Center South and Prattville Baptist Hospital:

Visitors will be restricted if they:

  • Exhibit any flu-like signs or symptoms
  • Have travel internationally to areas outlined by the CDC as COVID-19 impacted areas
  • Have spent time with someone who has traveled internationally and is symptomatic
  • Have been exposed to COVID-19 or someone diagnosed with COVID-10

Jackson Hospital previously updated its policy to restrict visitors. Until further notice, it is instituting the following restrictions:

  • Those experiencing a fever, cough, or respiratory symptoms are not permitted to visit
  • Visitors must be at least 12. No one under that age will be allowed to visit.
  • Those experiencing any of these symptoms will be required to enter through the hospital’s Emergency Department
  • Those experiencing any of these symptoms should call before visiting the ER or any doctor’s office
  • Visitors who are healthy should wash their hands before and after visiting

The confirmation means just a handful of states across the country remain free of any reported cases of the respiratory disease, as of Friday, that has turned into a global pandemic.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the disease was first discovered in China and the World Health Organization declared it a “public health emergency of international concern” on Jan. 30. Just over a month later, as the disease spread to more than 100 countries, COVID-19 was deemed to be a pandemic on March 11.

As of Thursday, the CDC says there have been 1,215 reported cases in the United States with 36 deaths. At least 42 states and the District of Columbia are affected.

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