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Ala. county, state leaders says ‘home for the holidays’ is the safest bet

Updated: Dec. 18, 2020 at 4:01 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Seventeen days into December, and Jefferson County has 2,000 more confirmed cases of COVID-19 than all of November.

Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Mark Wilson said the virus is “rampant” and is asking people to recommit to regular mask use, social distancing practices and to avoid holiday gatherings.

“We hate to be issuing a warning right now because it is the holiday season and people really do want to get together, and we understand that, but our disease levels in the community are so extremely high right now that it is really risky to get together with other people who are not part of your regular household,” said Wilson.

Wilson called parties and large gatherings “a recipe for disaster.”

“If you think most parties are where people eat and drink and converse, and it’s just very hard to do that and social distance and wear masks.”

Since March, Jefferson County has reported more than 44,000 cases. More than 10,000 cases have been reported so far this month. Wilson said there is widespread community spread, so much so, his office’s contact tracers are unable to keep up.

“The numbers are just so high that it’s taking on a momentum of its own. It’s like a snowball gathering more snow as it goes downhill. There’s just so much disease in the community right now that people are getting it all over the place, and there are some where people have gotten it in the workplace and there’s at least some reports that we’re getting that somebody failed to quarantine when they were supposed to. You know, there are so many cases right now that we aren’t even able to track all of them. We are getting overwhelmed because the numbers are so high, we can’t contact trace all of them,” explained Wilson.

The Alabama Department of Public Health is also advising against attending holiday gatherings.

State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said, “While we are pleased vaccine products have been authorized for emergency use, not nearly enough vaccine will be available initially, and it will be months before the public at large can be vaccinated. It is important that everyone continue practicing the measures that are effective in preventing transmission of COVID-19 including social distancing, mask wearing, hand hygiene, avoiding people who are sick, avoiding crowded, poorly ventilated indoor spaces, and monitoring their own health.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shared the following things to consider before traveling for the holidays:

  • Are you, someone in your household, or someone you will be visiting at increased risk for getting very sick from COVID-19?
  • Are cases high or increasing in your community or at your destination? The more cases in your community or at your destination, the more likely you are to get and spread COVID-19 as a result of your door-to-door travel. Check CDC’s COVID Data Tracker for the latest number of cases in each area.
  • Are hospitals in your community or at your destination overwhelmed with patients who have COVID-19? To find out, check state and local public health department websites.
  • Does your home or destination have requirements or restrictions for travelers? Check state and local requirements before you travel.
  • During the 14 days before your travel, have you or those you are visiting had close contact with people they don’t live with?
  • Do your plans include traveling by bus, train, or airplane, which might make staying 6 feet apart difficult?
  • Are you traveling with people who don’t live with you?

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” you should consider making other plans, such as hosting a virtual gathering or delaying your travel.

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