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Jefferson County health officer: Please don’t let your guard down now

Things appear to be improving in Jefferson County, but it is too early to know, the top health official in the state’s largest county said Friday.

The county has experienced a slower rate of growth in new COVID-19 cases in recent days, and the number of hospitalizations is down to 40 at UAB Medicine, the hospital said Friday.

“While this is good news, we as a state cannot afford to slip up now,” the hospital said in a statement Friday. “We need Alabamians to continue to understand the significance of the position we are in right now.”

Jefferson County Public Health Officer Dr. Mark Wilson said the county’s early health orders restricting interaction and travel have made a difference, but said it’s too early to tell whether the curve is flattening.

The weather is nice and people may want to go to a big box store for supplies to do projects around the house, Wilson said, but he pleaded with the public not to do so, and to only go shopping for absolutely essential items. 

“My main message to the public about that is, please, please don’t let your guard down now,” Wilson said.

Wilson said that big-box stores that remain open to provide essential supplies have been a concern, and that people should avoid going shopping unless it is for something absolutely essential.

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“Now is not the time,” Wilson said.

Wilson said during the press conference that people should still be wearing masks, whether homemade or bought, while shopping or in any situation where they may come into close contact with others. 

Wilson appeared at a press conference with U.S. Sen. Doug Jones. Jones said during the live-streamed press conference that with Easter weekend upon us, many may want to head outdoors and celebrate, but cautioned the public to “please practice that aggressive social distancing.” 

“Stay home unless you absolutely have to get out,” Jones said, adding that what the public does this weekend will impact COVID-19’s spread statewide in the coming weeks.“We’re still doing all we can to help get the message out … the social distancing is working.” 

Jones discussed the state’s confirmed COVID-19 cases, which as of Friday afternoon was at 2,927 cases and 80 reported deaths from the virus, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. 

“We are still trending in an upward projection,” Jones said of Alabama’s COVID-19 spread. Now is not the time to back off the social distancing that’s helping keep Alabamians safer from the virus than they otherwise would be, he said. 

Jones said when he absolutely has to go grocery shopping or to get gas, he wears a mask and encourages the public to do the same. 

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Eddie Burkhalter is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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