BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - There are five counties in Alabama that have not reported daily infections of COVID-19 over the last two weeks. Calhoun, Clay, Cleburne, Geneva and Randolph Counties currently have the lowest confirmed rate of infection per 100,000 people, according to data provided by the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH).
The remaining 62 counties have what ADPH considers “moderately high” or “high” rates of infection.
“Throughout the state, we have about 9% of all tests are returning positive, so we do have fairly widespread community outbreaks of COVID-19,” said Dr. Molly Fleece, infectious disease physician, UAB.
She added, “Whether that’s in households, crowded restaurants, crowded shops where people are not wearing masks, where there are people in close proximity to one another, where they are not being protected by physical barriers, physical distancing.”
At the start of the pandemic, outbreaks were commonly linked to long-term care facilities or other communal living locations, but Dr. Fleece said there is now more community transmission, with several counties consistently reporting high case counts.
“I think it’s attributed to many different factors. Certainly now that it’s summer people are traveling more, I think there is a certain amount of COVID fatigue, where people are hoping to go back to what was our previous normal, and so, we are seeing potentially more people in crowded situations, whether in restaurants or bars, or beaches. More people are traveling so I think as individuals are engaging in activities where they are in more crowded situations, and certainly if people are not wearing masks, then we would expect to see an increased number of cases there to follow,” said Dr. Fleece.
Dr. Fleece said she's concerned when she sees people choosing not to wear face coverings while in public, and said, "It's a fairly simply intervention that we can do that can really have an impact on those around us."
She added, "Early in this pandemic, in the US, we were not strongly recommending masks at that time. Masks were in shortage. We needed them for our healthcare facilities and we were not at that time as sure how much asymptomatic, or presymptomatic spread of this virus there would be."
“Now knowing what we know about asymptomatic and presymptomatic transmission, as well as people with symptoms, we now know from our own experience, through research and studies both here and abroad, that masks work and masks help to reduce the transmission from someone who has the virus in their respiratory secretions to someone who doesn’t.”