Dr. Ricardo Maldonado

Dr. Ricardo Maldonado, center, infectious disease specialist, observes the doffing and donning of personal protective equipment at EAMC in early March prior to the confirmed outbreak of Covid-19 in the Auburn community

The Covid-19 outbreak in the Auburn area turned deadly over the past week, with seven deaths confirmed in EAMC's service area since last Friday between Lee County (2) and Chambers County (4). 

"As everyone knows, this virus has taken a toll on our nation and world, and our community is not exempt from that," said Laura Grill, EAMC president and CEO. "Our hearts and prayers are with these families at this very difficult time."

The number of cases in Lee County also continues to rise, with 96 confirmed cases as of Friday morning. As testing has become more widely available, the numbers have risen statewide as well, with more than 1,300 confirmed cases and 21 deaths, with another 13 reported deaths awaiting confirmation by a physician and Infectious Disease and Outbreak staff. Lee County has three of those reported deaths, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. Chambers County has 74 confirmed cases, four confirmed deaths from Covid-19 and another five reported deaths. 

As of Wednesday afternoon, EAMC was treating 30 patients hospitalized with confirmed cases of Covid-19 and another 12 patients with suspected cases. Sixteen patients who tested positive have been discharged from the hospital so far, as have 20 patients who had suspected cases but have since received a negative test result.

Overall, EAMC has submitted more than 1,300 samples for testing, accounting for about 17 percent of all tests submitted in the state. About 250 tests are pending results; 948 tests returned a negative result. About 12 percent of submitted kits have tested positive. 

While there is not yet an official mandate from the state, EAMC is strongly encouraging area residents to shelter in place at home as the best way to stop the spread of Covid-19. 

"Unfortunately, there are still groups gathering, children playing in neighborhood parks, dinner parties, bible studies and other similar events," said a release by EAMC. "These gatherings are part of our everyday life, and may seem harmless, but continuing to participate in such events will allow Covid-19 to spread further throughout our community and infect the most vulnerable among us."

The shelter at home guideline and recommendations on whether people should wear protective masks are garnering renewed attention after studies suggest that up to 25 percent of people infected with Covid-19 may be asymptomatic. 

"This virus does have the ability to transmit far easier than the flu. It's probably now about three times as infectious as flu," said CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield to NPR on Tuesday. Redfield added that significant virus is being shed up to 48 hours before a person shows symptoms. "This helps explain how rapidly this virus continues to spread across the country, because we have asymptomatic transmitters and we have individuals who are transmitting 48 hours before they become symptomatic.

"I'd like to thank all the Americans and all the people in our nation that have taken this to heart and really practice aggressive social distancing. Secondly, for those that are still on the sidelines, I'd like to tell them now's the time to really embrace this. This is not just a little recommendation on a piece of paper. This is a very powerful weapon."

Another powerful weapon is good hygiene — frequently washing your hands for 20 seconds and disinfecting high-touch surfaces. 

If you feel like you may have Covid-19 symptoms — fever, cough and shortness of breath — call your primary care physician for further guidance or call EAMC's hotline at 334-528-SICK from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. A referral and appointment are needed before specimen collection by EAMC. 

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