While the daily Covid-19 case count and moving averages have trended downward over the past month, Lee County has now passed 3,000 confirmed cases since the pandemic began.
As of Thursday morning, Lee County has had 3,031 confirmed cases, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.
A major concern is how the return of Auburn University and Auburn City Schools students to on-campus instruction will impact the numbers going forward, a concern that was heightened over the past two weekends, as viral videos and images showed Auburn students crowded into downtown bars while not wearing masks or social distancing.
Auburn University reported that 203 students and five employees tested positive for Covid-19 during the week of Aug. 15-21. Auburn City Schools reported Sunday that it reported five cases of Covid-19 to the ADPH during the week of August 17-21, and 30 students are currently under a 14-day quarantine because of close contact exposure.
The return of students does not seem to have affected the number of hospitalizations at East Alabama Medical Clinic and EAMC-Lanier yet, as the number of patients hospitalized has decreased and currently sits at 33, as of Wednesday morning, down from a pandemic peak of 62 on July 22. While hospitalizations have remained steady, the positivity rate of tests has increased at EAMC, which received more than 2,000 calls to its 528-SICK hotline last week, with 101 testing positive out of 566 tested for a rate of 17.8 percent. For just last Friday, EAMC conducted 139 tests, with 41 coming back positive for a rate of 29.5 percent.
“We hope this is just a temporary uptick as our grade schools and colleges return for the new school year,” said EAMC spokesman John Atkinson. “The mask mandate was really making a difference with calls and testing, as well as hospitalizations. In the past, increased calls and testing have led to increased hospitalizations a couple of weeks later. Our fingers are crossed that we break that trend this time.”
EAMC also released a graph this week that shows hospitalizations over the course of the pandemic.
"“It now clearly shows the two distinct peaks we have had for hospitalizations,” said Atkinson. “It also shows the slower, more manageable period of time from early May to early July when we didn’t exceed 30 COVID-19 inpatients, and ventilator use dropped to five or less.”
The Auburn University Medical Clinic also saw a jump last week in its positivity rate, which increased from the typical 5 to 10 percent to 24.1 percent, as 217 of the 901 people tested came back positive for Covid-19.
"This did not surprise us. We were expecting this” said Dr. Fred Kam. “Likewise, we were expecting most of the students who tested positive to have mild symptoms and not require hospitalization, and that so far is exactly what has happened.
"Our challenge right now is for each person to educate themselves on what they need to know, what they should be doing and then holding themselves and those around them accountable for wearing masks, physically social distancing and frequently sanitizing their hands. Our strategy is simple: test, isolate, trace, quarantine and educate.”
EAMC is also asking students to use the AUMC for testing after the EAMC hotline received a higher call volume due to students.