Jefferson County Encourages More Coronavirus Testing As Cases Jump Statewide

 1525975613 
1590585956
Miranda Fulmore, WBHM

The number of new coronavirus cases in Alabama rose at the fastest rate this week since the beginning of the pandemic as Jefferson County officials encouraged more people, including those without symptoms, to be tested. According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, the state recorded 639 new cases on Monday and 593 on Tuesday, the two highest daily totals.

Public health leaders said some of that is due to an increase in testing, but it’s not the only factor.

“I speculate that what we’re seeing is some of the residual effects of loosening of the orders throughout the state,” said Dr. David Hicks, deputy health officer at the Jefferson County Department of Health.

Alabama beaches and retailers were allowed to reopen with certain limitations on April 30. Restaurants, barber shops, salons and gyms followed May 11.

“As we open Alabama up more and more, I think we should anticipate seeing further increases in the number of cases,” Hicks said.

Earlier this month, the Jefferson County Health Department announced that there was additional testing capacity. For instance, a site at Legion Field in Birmingham tested an average of 100 people a day, but could handle up to 250, meaning people who are asymptomatic could be tested. Officials specifically recommended those who frequently interact with large numbers of people and those who are in settings where social distancing or wearing of face masks don’t always occur.

That extra capacity means restaurants owners could test their entire staffs or an asymptomatic barber could seek out testing. But Hicks cautioned against  “a false sense of comfort” because the most common test, which involves sticking a swab into the nasal cavity, only detects an infection at the moment the test is given. If the test comes back positive, that person can be isolated. But if it is negative, that doesn’t mean the person cannot become infected days later.

Hicks said there is debate as to whether the average person should be tested on a regular basis, but stressed that it is recommended that those in high-risk environments, such as health care and long-term care facilities, be tested more than once. He said the county is working on a strategy to test all residents and workers in nursing homes, with possible weekly testing to follow.

“This is a very, very high-risk group, so you want to know as much as you can in real time whether or not there is infection going around,” Hicks said.

Recommendations will change, but Hicks said that doesn’t mean public health leaders don’t know what they’re doing.

“As we get more information, we can hone and tweak our recommendations to get them better and better,” Hicks said.

Information about testing in Jefferson County

Information about testing in Alabama

More Coronavirus Coverage

Hack Exposes Vulnerability Of America’s Energy Supply Lines

Colonial Pipeline’s shutdown of its 5,500-mile pipeline Friday after a ransomware attack. But this is not the first time the public’s attention has been turned to the things that can go wrong with the energy supply.

Legislative Wrap-Up: Medical Marijuana And Yoga Bills Pass, Gambling Bill Stalls

A medical marijuana bill goes to the governor. Meanwhile a gambling bill looks unlikely to pass this session.

Alabama Legislature Drops Resistance, OKs Medical Marijuana

The bill faced strong resistance among House lawmakers.

WBHM Wins Four Regional Edward R. Murrow Awards

Public Radio WBHM 90.3 FM has won four regional Edward R. Murrow awards, including the award for Overall Excellence. WBHM also won awards in these categories: Continuing Coverage – The pandemic rages through Alabama, WBHM News Team Excellence in Sound – “Through The Intercom, Nursing Home Employee Sings To Residents” by Mary Scott Hodgin Hard […]

New Orleans’ Return To Cultural Parades Is A Step Toward Healing In The South

In April, Mardi Gras Indians held a funeral and parade for one of their own – one of a few large cultural events to occur since the pandemic started and most large events in the region were canceled.

Fentanyl Overdose Deaths Increase 100% In Jefferson County

The powerful synthetic opioid is now being mixed with drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine, leading to more overdose deaths.

More Coronavirus Coverage