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Alabama reports third day of record-setting COVID-19 numbers


Alabama’s COVID-19 case count continues to surge as the Department of Public Health on Saturday, for the third day in a row, reported more than 800 new cases of coronavirus.

The total number of coronavirus cases in Alabama since the pandemic began jumped to 24,221 on Saturday, an increase of 888 cases to the cumulative case count. The previous high was an increase of 859 cases on Friday and 848 new cases on Thursday.

The 7- and 14-day averages of case increases, used to smooth out daily inconsistencies and variability of case counts, are also at their highest levels since the pandemic began.

The Department of Public Health, which also tracks the number of cases per day, reports more than 1,040 new cases on Friday, the highest total since the pandemic began, and the first time more than 1,000 new cases have been reported in a single day.

[For an explanation of why our daily case counts differ somewhat from the state’s, see the FAQ on our data dashboard.]

According to the state’s counts, the three highest daily totals have also been over the last three days.

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At least 13,508 have been presumed to have recovered, according to the Department of Health, since March. More than 768 have died, and more than 620 remain hospitalized.

But some 6,269 cases of the virus have been reported in Alabama since June 1, which amounts to 26 percent of the state’s total confirmed case count.

Since the state began lifting stay-at-home restrictions on April 30, the state has reported at least 17,153 new cases, which accounts for 71 percent of the state’s total case count since March.

Since reopening, the average daily increase in confirmed cases has risen 264 percent from 177 cases per day on April 30 to 645 cases per day by Saturday. Average tests per day, by contrast, increased only 35 percent.

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.

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Alabama has not implemented a statewide requirement to wear face-coverings while in public, but public health officials, the governor and infectious diseases experts highly recommend wearing a mask when leaving the home.

Hospitalizations also remain at record-high levels, according to the department of health. At least 647 people were in hospitals with a positive case of COVID-19 on Thursday, the highest total to date. Fewer hospitals report hospitalizations on Fridays and weekends, but the total Friday was still at least 622.

The Department of Public Health does not report the daily number of ICU beds or ventilators in use, nor does it report the percent capacity of the state’s hospitals. But hospitals across the state are seeing increasing hospitalizations, particularly in Montgomery, where hospitals face a shortage of ICU beds.

Montgomery County has accounted for nearly 15 percent of the state’s new cases over the past week, reporting 651 new cases since June 6. Mobile County, which has the largest number of cases in the state, has accounted for 6 percent of this week’s cases, and Jefferson County, the state’s most populous, has accounted for 10 percent of new cases this week.

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The number of tests being performed in Alabama is also increasing, from about 5,000 tests per day, on average, on April 30 to 6,700 per day, on average, over the past week.

But the increase in new positive cases is not simply the function of more tests being performed, according to both state public health officials and infectious diseases experts at Alabama’s largest research medical center, UAB.

The percentage of tests that are positive remains high above the ideal level of 5 percent or below, and has been increasing over the past week. Having a percentage of tests that are positive above 5 percent suggests the state is still missing positive cases by not conducting enough tests.

The state’s current positivity percent, based on 7-day averages of test and case increase, is roughly 10 percent.

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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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