The number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus Covid-19 continues to rise in Lee County as normal life and work has ground to an effective halt.
Lee County has 12 confirmed cases as of Saturday morning, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. The number of cases in the state has risen sharply as well over the past week to 124. Currently, there have been no reported deaths from Covid-19 in the state.
EAMC officials currently don't know of any connections between the confirmed cases, but expect the number of cases in Lee County to continue to rise in the coming days.
In a release, EAMC said its emergency department has received people who say they are symptomatic and that their employer is requiring them to be tested before returning to work.
"Please know that we cannot 'test' every person who comes to the ED with these symptoms due to the limited number of supplies available for use for specimen collection," said the release. "Also, pleased understand that “testing” means that a specimen is collected and sent to either the ADPH or an independent lab to determine if the person is positive or negative for COVID-19. Such collection kits must be reserved for patients who meet “screening” criteria for “testing.”
EAMC asks those with symptoms of Covid-19 — cough, shortness of breath, and/or fever — to contact their primary care physician or call EAMC's hotline at 334-528-SICK for preliminary screening over the phone. An appointment will be made, if needed, for the collection of a sample. People with mild symptoms should treat Covid-19 as they would seasonal flu, except to not use ibuprofen.
The hotline has received thousands of calls, with 12 lines being answered. The hotline hours are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Overall, EAMC has collected more than 350 samples for testing.
Alabama has increased its efforts to curtail the spread of coronavirus in the state, with Gov. Kay Ivey issuing a statewide public health order on Thursday that closed beaches, prohibited on-premise service of bars and restaurants, and prohibited all non-work related gatherings of 25 or more people, as well as non-work related gatherings of any size that cannot maintain the six-foot social distancing guideline.
The initial order did not clarify whether the prohibition on gatherings applied to businesses. The original order was clarified on Friday.
"In order to keep Alabama going, we must keep Alabama businesses going to the best of our abilities," said Ivey. "I fully support the restrictions of social or recreational gatherings of 25 people or less and strongly encourage individuals to maintain a six-foot distance. However, this order was intended to apply to non-work-related gatherings. However, employers should take all necessary steps to meet these standards for employees and customers.
"Let me be abundantly clear - I have no intention of slowing down our workforce through unnecessary, burdensome regulations. We will only be able to mitigate the risk of the virus through the efforts of our hardworking manufacturers that will produce life-sustaining supplies, our truckers who move these goods down the road, and our valued retailers that will make them available to our citizens."
The aim of the stricter measures is to help spread out the number of infected people in the state over a longer period of time, which will help "flatten the curve" and prevent the state's hospitals and resources from becoming overrun and depleted.
Ivey's health order also included:
- Preschools and childcare centers will be closed effective at close of school or business today. This shall not apply to licensed childcare centers that provide services exclusively to employees with: State and Local Governments, First Responders (including EMS and Fire Services), Law Enforcement, Hospitals, Nursing Home/Long Term Care Facilities (including Assisted Living and Specialty Care Assisted Living Facilities), End Stage Renal Disease Treatment Centers, Pharmacies and grocery stores.
- Effective immediately, all Hospitals and Nursing Home/Long Term Care Facilities (including Assisted Living and Specialty Care Assisted Living Facilities) shall prohibit visitation of all visitors and non-essential health care personnel, except for certain compassionate care situations such as maternity and end-of-life.
- All elective dental and medical procedures shall be delayed, effective immediately.
Ivey's updated health order is attached to this article.
"We understand that the health orders issued will be a hardship on Alabamians. We must, first and foremost, protect the health and safety of our citizens. This decision has not been made lightly and will help to prevent the spread of this virus," said State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris.