U.S. Sen. Doug Jones on Thursday addressed reporters on the worsening coronavirus crisis in the state of Alabama, along with UAB’s Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, an infectious diseases expert who joined Jones on the conference call.
“As a nation, we peaked on April 23 at 39,000 cases a day,” Jones said, adding that by the end of May it had gotten down to 17,000 cases a day. “It is trending sharply up.”
Nationally, we are back up to 39,000 cases a day.
“We have continued to see marked increases in the number of cases going forward,” Jones said. “The challenge is that we are also seeing increases in other indexes that are very alarming.”
The current surge is because there has been of a relaxation of social distancing, Marrazzo said.
“The virus is not mutating,” she said. “This is almost certainly on us. We are giving the virus more opportunity to jump on us.”
Marrazzo said that the number of tests have increased resulting in more cases being identified, but the percentage of tests that are positive has also been increasing. It was seven percent positives, now it is over 9 percent and has been over ten percent, which is why other states have begun putting travel restrictions on people from Alabama.
Jones, when asked by reporters if the state should go back to the more restrictive health orders, said he won’t ask the governor to do that but “if things start to really go bad, governors may not have any choice.” The governor of Texas, which is also experiencing a surge, is postponing measures to open up.
Jones said that the current rise in cases is mostly in California and the southern states.
“We saw another over a thousand cases yesterday,” Jones said. “This continues to be a serious, serious problem. We are still seeing death and high hospitalizations.”
Jones said that the public needs to be wearing masks and social distancing. Wearing masks is not a political issue. Jones called on businesses and Churches to do more to encourage people to wear masks.
Marrazzo said that in the modeling mask wearing improves outcomes by fifty to twenty percent across all of the models.
“The Alabama Department of Public Health will be rolling out some new tools” soon to help the public understand the threat, Jones added.
Jones said that he had just had a really troubling conversation with Dr. Don Williamson at the Alabama Hospital Association. The last couple of days, the number of hospital beds taken by COVID-19 patients has risen to 675. 82 percent of the state’s ICU beds are in use.
Marrazzo said that the hospitals are going to have to start converting other parts of the hospitals into intensive care beds, which has already happened at some hospitals across the state.
Jones said that the July 4th holiday is a time to get out and gather with friends and family, but if the people of Alabama handle the Fourth of July weekend like they conducted themselves over the Memorial Day weekend, we are going to have a real problem with schools starting to open up in a few weeks.
Marrazzo said that certain states like New York, Connecticut and Kansas are now asking people from Alabama not to visit, and, if they do travel there, then to quarantine for fourteen days. Currently, there is no way to enforce those orders.
Jones said that he favors another coronavirus relief bill.
“We don’t have another bill in the Senate,” Jones said. “I am hoping that we get one.”
Jones said that Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, the Senate majority leader, is standing in the way.
Jones reminded business owners that they have until June 30 to apply for the Payroll Protection Program.
“We have not done anything to actually stimulate the economy,” Jones said. “All we have done is to try to mitigate the damage done to the economy.”