BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - It has been almost a week since Governor Ivey loosened restrictions on the occupancy rates of retail businesses as well as bars and restaurants.
State health officials continue to see a steady rise in the number of positive COVID-19 cases.
A UAB infectious diseases doctor said the increasing rate of positive cases is a concern here in Alabama as well as the nation.
The key for spread is places where a lot of people are gathering.
Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo said they are seeing outbreaks of the coronavirus at a number of places where people meet. Bars and restaurants are examples. Businesses are encouraged to put up plexiglass barriers or to continue social distancing.
Another place where health officials are seeing outbreaks are gyms. People close together, breathing heavily with exercise.
Church congregations are proving to be a problem with church members inside a building. They, too, are expected to social distance or at least wear masks.
“So you take a mask off to sing, you take a mask off to eat. You take a mask off maybe because you are on the treadmill. Anything like that, you are going be looking to see explosive spread,” Dr. Marrazzo said.
Dr. Marrazzo said Governor Ivey and Public Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris are in tough positions trying to protect people while at the same time helping businesses stay open. Marrazzo said it can be done if people are mindful of what they need to do protect themselves.
Alabama health leaders believe in order to stay on top of the COVID-19 outbreak, people are still going to need to get tested. Even if they are not showing any symptoms.
Certainly here in Birmingham and across Alabama, there are more testing sites available for people to use, but a number are not.
Marrazzo said Alabama is averaging about 7,000 tests a day. Still, that average dropped to little more than 4,000. Marrazzo said testing is available here. On the Alabama Coronavirus Relief Fund website, it reports the state has been given $37 million in CARES Act funds for testing, but so far only about $6 million has been spent.
Dr. Marrazzo doesn’t know why the money hasn’t been spent, but testing will give them a better understanding of what is happening in the community.
While some people may not feel there is a need to test if they are not showing symptoms, Dr. Marrazzo also warns you don’t feel you are out of the woods if you get tested and it’s negative.
“Know if you get a test and it’s negative, it does not give you a passport to be sure you are not going to infect anyone else. It’s reassuring, but it’s not definitive. It’s not something that can take you out of quarantine,” Marrazzo said.
While some people may not feel there is a need to test if they are not showing symptoms, Dr. Marrazzo said asymptomatic people can still spread the disease up to two or three days after getting tested. She adds some may not know where or when to get tested. That information is all on the Alabama Department of Public Health and Jefferson County Health Department’s website.
Alabama hospitals say more people are being hospitalized across the state. The numbers of late continue to be over 1,000 patients. UAB is getting up to 74 on Wednesday.
There are fears some hospitals at some point may be overwhelmed with COVID and possible flu cases.
This is a direct link with increasing positive cases. The more positive cases in Alabama, the larger number of people seeking hospitalizations and that could strain healthcare services for everyone else.
It was after the Fourth of July holiday weekend the state saw a surge of patients. We reached 1,500 by August. The numbers are again moving in that direction.
Dr. Marrazzo said the numbers can come down if people just social distance, keep those face masks on in crowded situations, and practice hand washing.
“I am quite concerned we are heading in that direction. If cases are going up, we expect that hospitalizations and deaths will go up with that usual 10 to 14 day lag. So very, very concerned about that,” Marrazzo said.
Dr. Marrazzo said UAB has activated its command center to monitor the situation to be sure the hospital stays on top of resources, ICU beds, and personnel to handle such a load. Dr. Marrazzo said the last few days, they have seen hospitals and in Huntsville and Tuscaloosa pushed with added patients and demands.