East Alabama Medical Clinic has announced that it will enact a '"no visitor" policy with few exceptions starting Thursday morning after an eighth patient tested positive for COVID-19 in Lee County.
The number of confirmed cases in Alabama and Lee County has risen sharply over the past two days as testing sites have come online, including one at EAMC. Alabama currently has 51 confirmed cases, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health, while Jefferson County has 25.
“This temporary change is not a step we wanted to make,” said Laura Grill, EAMC president and CEO. “However, with Lee County now having the second most COVID-19 cases in Alabama, we feel that it is extremely important to use this tactic to help flatten the curve of cases.”
The "no visitor" list has the following exceptions: "Pediatrics and Level 2 Nursery (2 primary caregivers); laboring women (1 primary support person); Emergency Department (1 visitor, ED lobby only; and end-of-life circumstances. However, if the attending physician or nurse manager determines that a support person is needed, the family will be contacted to make such arrangements."
EAMC's move comes against the backdrop of an elevated response in the Lee County area this week. Both the Auburn and Opelika city councils declared a state of emergency at their meetings on Tuesday. Future council meetings can now take place via tele- or video conference after Gov. Kay Ivey issued a proclamation in response to the outbreak. Auburn also passed a resolution urging Auburn residents to abide by the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the ADHP.
The businesses community also continues to increase its response and shift its focus as the streets and sidewalks become emptier and owners and service employees fret over how to make ends meet and what may come next. Many retail store owners have opted to close their stores and focus on online sales, while restaurant owners have closed dine-in service and shifted to delivery and/or to-go orders with curbside pickup.
The Downtown Merchants Association has compiled a list of merchants' stores and restaurants and provided links to online ordering options.
Most bars in downtown Auburn also announced temporary closures after hosting St. Patrick's Day celebrations that drew criticism and concern from some community members.
EAMC has collected a number of other samples the past few days, and hospital officials expect the number of cases in Lee County to continue to rise, according to a news release. EAMC collected 140 specimens today as of 5 p.m., bringing its weekly total to 240.
"EAMC does not know of any possible connection between the cases," the release stated.
Specimen collection at EAMC's drive-thru collection center at HealthPlus is by appointment only. There are also plans to open a collection tent at EAMC-Lanier by Friday.
EAMC released the following guidelines on measures the public should take regarding the collection of samples:
- People having MILD symptoms should treat COVID-19 in a similar way they would the seasonal flu, except not to use ibuprofen. Speak with a pharmacist about which over-the-counter medicines are best for you. Also, isolate yourself from family and friends.
- People who feel they need medical attention should contact their primary care physician or other local provider.
- If the medical provider determines a COVID-19 test is warranted, they will collect the specimen there and submit to ADPH or to an independent lab. If the physician’s office is out of supplies or do not have the ability to collect, the patient can call 334-528-SICK for evaluation.
- Calls to 334-528-SICK should be used when exhibiting the COVID-19 symptoms and possible emergent care is needed.
- Calls to 334-528-SICK does not guarantee a COVID-19 specimen will be collected and submitted for testing. Instead, patients will be screened on the phone and if the medical provider on the phone determines a COVID-19 test is warranted, directions will be provided on going to EAMC’s drive-through collection center.
EAMC's updates on the coronavirus can be found at https://www.eamc.org/patient-and-guests/coronavirus-covid-19-update.
The Alabama Department of Public Health is providing updates at www.alabamapublichealth.gov/infectiousdiseases/2019-coronavirus.html.
The most up-to-date information can be found at the CDC's dedicated website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.
Updates from the city can be found online at https://www.auburnalabama.org/coronavirus/.
Auburn University, which shifted students over to remote learning on Monday, is providing updates at https://ocm.auburn.edu/news/coronavirus/.