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Senate Health Committee updated on coronavirus crisis

respirator masks and paper with text Coronavirus, originating in Wuhan, China

Wednesday, Alabama Public Health Officer Scott Harris told the Alabama Senate Health Committee, “We have no cases in Alabama,” referring to the new strain of the coronavirus – COVID-19.

The Chairman of the Senate Health Committee is Senator Jim McClendon (R-Springville).

McClendon asked Dr. Harris to update the Committee on the threat from the coronavirus.

Dr. Harris said that the state has been monitoring about 100 people, most of them travelers from China; but thus far none of them have developed the virus; though some of them have shown symptoms of other illnesses.

Dr. Harris said that the Alabama Department of Public Health, “is expanding our testing.”

“It is very likely that we will see some cases in Alabama,” Dr. Harris told the committee.

Sen. Larry Stutts, R-Sheffield, asked, “Do you think there would be seasonal variation?”

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“I don’t know,” Dr. Harris said.

Harris said that he had received a briefing from the top expert in the world on this and his answer to that, “We just do not know right now.”

“We do have cases in both hemispheres,” Dr. Harris said. It is winter right now in the Northern Hemisphere and summer right now in the southern hemisphere.

Harris said that the ADPH has dealt with disease outbreaks in the past and are making preparations to deal with this.

Chairman McClendon told the Alabama Political Reporter that the ADPH will be preparing a weekly update for the Health Committee on coronavirus.

The U.S. House of Representatives is considering a supplemental appropriations to provide funding for dealing with the response to the disease.

“Our job should be to support the medical community and provide them with the resources they need to handle this and future outbreaks,” Congressman Mike Rogers said in a hearing on the coronavirus on Wednesday. “That’s why I am very pleased we will be considering a supplemental appropriations bill today. Hopefully, this funding will help speed along important diagnostic, treatment, and vaccination resources that will alleviate this crisis.”

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Through Wednesday, 2981 people have died from COVID-19 in China, 107 in Italy, 92 in Iran, 35 in South Korea, and 9 in the United States with total deaths rising to 3,249. The nine deaths in the United States are clustered around a nursing home in Washington state.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) describes a pandemic as a “global disease outbreak,” such that an influenza pandemic occurs when “a new flu virus emerges for which people have little or no immunity.”

On December 31, COVID-19 was first identified in a cluster of similar cases in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. As of Tuesday, there have been 95,179 diagnosed cases of coronavirus in 84 countries and 3,254 deaths.


Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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