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Alabama reports largest single-day increase in coronavirus cases

Patient is being tested in his vehicle on a drive-through coronavirus COVID-19 testing location. Pandemic, infection

Alabama reported a new daily high in COVID-19 cases on Wednesday. The number of positive coronavirus cases increased by 849, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health, surpassing a previous daily high of 640.

Forty percent of the new cases from Wednesday came from the five counties with the largest total number of cases: Montgomery, Jefferson, Tuscaloosa, Mobile and Marshall Counties. But Dallas and Elmore counties, rural counties in Alabama’s Black Belt region, also added significant numbers of new cases today. Tuscaloosa County became the fourth county in Alabama to surpass 1,000 cases.

The increase in new cases comes a little more than two weeks after Memorial Day, though it is not clear whether the holiday directly contributed to the increase. But it typically takes about 10 to 14 days for a new transmission of the virus to appear in data.

Montgomery County reported by far the largest increase in new cases in the state Wednesday, adding 146 cases. The increase was also the largest in the county since the pandemic began. Over the past week, 578 new cases have been reported in Montgomery, bringing the total number of cases in the county home to Alabama’s capital to 2,436. Meanwhile, hospitals in Montgomery are strained as hospitalizations continue to rise.

Statewide, hospitalizations and reported deaths are also on an upswing. Hospitalizations are at their highest level since the pandemic began, according to the Department of Public Health. At least 647 people were hospitalized on Wednesday in Alabama.

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Deaths per day remain lower than the level seen in late April and early May but are also increasing. At least 750 people have died in Alabama from COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and 99 new deaths have been reported in the last seven days.

It’s possible that a portion of the new cases Wednesday are backlogged positive cases from last week when the state experienced a data issue that caused positives to go underreported. However, that issue was corrected on Saturday.

Gov. Kay Ivey lifted the state’s “stay-at-home” order on April 30, replacing it with a “safer-at-home” order that loosened restrictions. Since then, the state has twice more relaxed restrictions, allowing more businesses, churches and entertainment venues to reopen with social-distancing restrictions and sanitation guidelines.

On average, 530 new cases per day have been added over the past seven days, the highest 7-day average since the pandemic began. At least 3,708 new cases have been reported in the last week, the highest total in a single 7-day period.

Over the past seven days, about 6,200 new tests per day have been reported in Alabama, on average.

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The number of tests has been moderately increasing, and in an interview earlier this week, State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said the increase in cases is not totally attributable to increased testing.

The percent of tests that are positive in Alabama remains far above ideal levels, Harris said.

“If this was only explained by increased testing, the percent positive wouldn’t change,” Harris said. “But the percent positives are higher than they were at least a few weeks ago. We were at a high of around 12 percent in April, then it declined a little bit. It got as low as 9 percent. Then it has crept back up again.”

According to the state’s accounting of the percent of tests that are positive, about 10.2 percent of tests were positive during the week ending June 6. Data for this week is not yet available. Our data shows an increase in the percent of tests that are positive.

Chip Brownlee is a former political reporter, online content manager and webmaster at the Alabama Political Reporter. He is now a reporter at The Trace, a non-profit newsroom covering guns in America.

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