Flu activity low in Alabama

There is some good health news in Alabama.

While coronavirus cases in the state are ticking up, flu activity is tracking behind last year, according to surveillance data from the Alabama Department of Public Health.

For the week ending Oct. 24, ADPH showed 2 of the state’s eight health districts – the northeastern part of the state and Jefferson County – had lab confirmed flu cases. The remainder of the districts showed no significant influenza. No districts reported significant activity.

For the same week last year, every district except Mobile showed lab confirmed cases. By the next week in 2019, the east central and southeastern districts were already showing significant influenza activity.

Flu rates are also low nationally. Forty nine states, including Alabama, were reporting “minimal” influenza activity. The only state reporting low flu activity was Iowa.

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control said 1.2% of patients nationally reported visiting their physician had flu-like illnesses, well below the national baseline of 2.6%.

The exact timing and duration of flu varies each year but activity traditionally increases in October, peaking between December and February and lasting as long as May. The CDC recommends flu vaccines for everyone ages 6 months of age and older.

https://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/publications/assets/publichealthdistrictsmap.pdf

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New backlog adds 1,700 coronavirus cases in Alabama for second consecutive day

The Alabama Department of Public Health reported an increase of exactly 1,700 new coronavirus cases in Alabama on Sunday, including 944 confirmed cases and 756 probables. The state also reported six new virus deaths.

The majority of those probable cases came in just two counties in northwest Alabama, and ADPH reported many of those new cases are the result of a new backlog of cases entering the system.

“On October 31, the Alabama Department of Public Health processed a historic lab result file from an entity in Northwest Alabama,” a notice on the state’s coronavirus dashboard read. “This file will result in 846 positive lab results from June, July and August of 2020. These results primarily affect data from Limestone, Lawrence, Franklin, Colbert, and Lauderdale counties.”

Lauderdale County reported 270 new probable cases Sunday, and neighboring Colbert County reported 149 probable cases.

Similar backlogs have been frequent lately – APDH reported two very large backlogs of probable cases on Oct. 22 and 23, and the state dashboard currently shows a message about a backlog of 90 confirmed cases from Covington County, in south Alabama, that entered the system on Oct. 30.

Those data problems make tracking the state’s virus outbreak difficult. The 7-day average for total new virus cases – including both confirmed and probable cases – has moved around drastically in the last two weeks because of those backlogs. But the 7-day average for confirmed cases has been more reliable, and despite the backlog in Covington County reported on Halloween, it’s clear that number continues to trend up.

[Can’t see the chart? Click here.]

On Saturday, the 7-day average for new confirmed virus cases topped 1,000 for the first time since Sept. 1. On Sunday it ticked up again, and stood at 1,051 – the highest it’s been since Aug. 14. With probable cases included, the state’s 7-day average for new cases was 1,376 as of Sunday morning.

The state now has a total of 193,985 cases since the start of the pandemic, including 165,239 confirmed and 28,746 probable cases. It has also reported 2,973 deaths due to the virus.

Jefferson County, the most populous county in the state and home to Birmingham, saw the largest increase in new confirmed cases on Sunday at 172. Jefferson has now added at least 100 new confirmed cases in each of the last 13 days, and the county’s 7-day average for new cases has ticked up steadily over the last few weeks.

[Can’t see the chart? Click here.]

The 7-day average in Jefferson for new total cases – including probables – rose to 169 on Sunday, the highest it’s been there since Sept. 3, and an 80 percent increase since Oct. 8, when the average fell below 100 cases per day.

Only two counties reported new deaths on Sunday. Jefferson reported four deaths, bringing its total to 374 since the start of the pandemic. Two new virus deaths were reported in Mobile on Sunday, bringing the total there to 317. Those two

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Alabama adds another 1,000-plus coronavirus cases; When is mask order set to end?

Alabama added another 1,000-plus coronavirus cases overnight.

The Alabama Department of Public Health’s Oct. 27 10 a.m. numbers show the state has had 186,437 cases since March, adding 1,115 since yesterday.  Of those cases, 159,439 are confirmed and 26,998 are probable. The state added 26 deaths to its total, bring the death toll to 2,892.

Hospitalizations also increased, rising by 32 to 967.

Alabama’s mask order

Alabama remains under a mandatory face mask covering order until Nov. 8.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris first issued the mask order on July 16.

The mask order requires people to wear coverings over their nostrils and mouth when within 6 feet of people from another household in indoor spaces open to the public, a vehicle operated by a transportation service, or an outdoor space where 10 or more people are gathered. Masks are not required for children 6 and younger, people with a medical disability that prevents wearing a mask, people voting, or those “actively providing or obtaining access to religious worship.”

At the time of the most recent extension, Ivey cited the importance of protecting people from coronavirus on election day. She has not indicated if she will extend the order past next week.

Here are the latest county-by-county numbers from the Alabama Department of Public Health. The numbers include both confirmed and probable cases with the overnight increases shown in parenthesis:

Autauga – 2082 (+6)

Baldwin – 6712 (+18)

Barbour – 1042 (+9)

Bibb – 850 (+7)

Blount – 1972 (+30)

Bullock – 650 (+1)

Butler – 1012

Calhoun – 4647 (+26)

Chambers – 1368 (+16)

Cherokee – 756 (+11)

Chilton – 1904 (+11)

Choctaw – 393 (+1)

Clarke – 1366 (+13)

Clay – 753 (+4)

Cleburne – 573

Coffee – 1807 (+12)

Colbert – 2060 (+19)

Conecuh – 565 (+4)

Coosa – 209 (+4)

Covington – 1759 (+4)

Crenshaw – 609

Cullman – 2557 (+49)

Dale – 1789 (+17)

Dallas – 1881 (+9)

DeKalb – 3492 (+31)

Elmore – 3246 (+19)

Escambia – 1749 (+19)

Etowah – 4341 (+19)

Fayette – 589 (+5)

Franklin – 2064 (+3)

Geneva – 921 (+5)

Greene – 346

Hale – 777

Henry – 723 (+4)

Houston – 4193 (+13)

Jackson – 2194 (+19)

Jefferson – 23,573 (+130)

Lamar – 508 (+2)

Lauderdale – 2338 (+25)

Lawrence – 869 (+8)

Lee – 6571 (+21)

Limestone – 2936 (+43)

Lowndes – 716 (+2)

Macon – 539 (+2)

Madison – 9422 (+28)

Marengo – 1026 (+1)

Marion – 1103 (+6)

Marshall – 4426 (+15)

Mobile – 16,994 (+60)

Monroe – 655 (+7)

Montgomery – 10,352 (+54)

Morgan – 4223 (+31)

Perry – 595 (+2)

Pickens – 869 (+9)

Pike – 1345 (+1)

Randolph – 835 (+6)

Russell – 1960 (+7)

St. Clair – 3040 (+41)

Shelby – 7504 (+68)

Sumter – 474 (+2)

Talladega – 2714 (+40)

Tallapoosa – 1339 (+9)

Tuscaloosa – 10,462 (+48)

Walker – 2837 (+14)

Washington – 751 (+2)

Wilcox – 570

Winston – 940 (+3)

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Alabama statewide school COVID tracker to debut Oct. 30; Here’s how it works

Alabamians anxious to get a look at the prevalence of COVID-19 among students, teachers, and staff in schools statewide will get their chance on Friday.

The dashboard, in the works since late August, will be published on the Alabama Department of Public Health website and will include the number of self-reported positive COVID-19 cases in each school system, but will not be broken down by school.

After discussion between Alabama State Department of Education officials during a Monday afternoon training session for school nurses about whether to report only laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases or whether to report all known self-reported positives among students and faculty, Alabama State Superintendent Eric Mackey told AL.com the school tracker will follow the same reporting protocol school nurses follow now on the ADPH report card.

“The (Alabama Department of Public Health) school dashboard will use the same protocols for reporting as the ADPH report card,” Mackey wrote to AL.com.

Currently, the ADPH report card—the mechanism through which school nurses report positive cases to ADPH for contact tracing—does not require laboratory confirmation of positive cases.

Schools currently rely on parents and staff to report positive cases of COVID-19, but schools are not required to collect laboratory results before reporting a positive case.

K-12 schools have not appeared to be the source of community spread of coronavirus, something many feared prior to the opening of schools in August. The school tracker, Mackey said earlier this month, is important for two reasons, Mackey said: “So people take it seriously, and so they don’t overreact.”

“We want to be fully transparent so that people know that there are cases in the community,” Mackey said. Knowing the level of spread, he added, helps people to continue to do the things needed to mitigate that spread.

The school tracker will include positive cases for the week ending each Tuesday evening, officials said. State department of education nurses will review the data, and it will be published online by 10 a.m. each Friday morning.

A school district’s lead nurse is the only school official who can complete the school tracker report for the district, and while student and faculty cases will be reported separately, only a total will be reported to the public. Five cases or fewer will not be reported by number for privacy reasons, officials said.

While there is no national template or standard for reporting cases in schools, some states provide a more detailed breakdown than Alabama is planning to report.

Florida reports positive cases by school and whether the person is a student, teacher, or other staff member. Their report also includes whether persons were showing symptoms. Louisiana reports cases weekly but only by parish, or county. Utah breaks case data down into three age groups, 5 to 10 years old, 11 to 13 years old and 14 to 18 years old.

For its school reporting dashboard, New York’s public health department not only relies on self-reporting, but also uses official lab results, matching the lab results to the

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In Alabama, positivity rate for coronavirus tests is rising: Week in review

In Alabama, the positivity rate for coronavirus tests reached 16.9 percent as of Thursday – the highest it’s been since mid-September.

But it’s hard to compare that rate over time, because data backlogs and changes in reporting here have made comparisons difficult. State data is messy and getting messier.

On Sept. 1, for instance, the state changed the way it reports tests and removed about 27,000 tests from the logs. And this week, roughly 2,500 new probable cases in Mobile weren’t accompanied by a similar increase in tests.

The data issues can make it difficult to monitor progress in Alabama. For example, this week the Alabama Department of Public Health reported more than 10,000 coronavirus cases in the state, but that includes those 2,500 from a backlog at a local lab in Mobile County. Those cases were from some time between June and October 18. And maybe some came from other counties near Mobile.

Prior to the large influx on Friday from that backlog, the state was seeing a rise in new cases. The 7-day average for total new virus cases reached 1,128 in Alabama on Thursday. That’s the highest it’s been since Sept. 5.

[Can’t see the chart? Click here.]

But the increase in new cases hasn’t been accompanied by an equal increase in tests. Between Oct. 1 and Oct. 22, the 7-day average for new cases has gone up by about five percent. Over the same span, the 7-day average for daily tests has done down by 23 percent.

The World Health Organization in May suggested countries should have positivity rates lower than 5 percent for at least 14 days before reopening.

Within Alabama, from county to county, positivity rates are all over the map.

[Can’t see the map? Click here.]

As of Thursday, Lamar County in northwest Alabama had the highest rate in the state at 45 percent. In the week leading up to Thursday, 37 cases were reported in Lamar County, and just 83 tests.

DeKalb County, in northeast Alabama, had a similar positivity rate with nearly 10 times the test numbers. More than 42 percent of the 720 tests performed there over that span came back positive.

No Alabama counties were below 5 percent positivity rate as of Thursday.

[Can’t see the chart? Click here.]

Probable cases primarily include those found through antigen testing, and also those without any confirmed test but where the person has symptoms and has been in close contact with a confirmed case. The large increase in probables, along with confirmed cases, made this week’s total the highest since early August.

But that’s probably not a fair representation. Clicking on the ‘confirmed cases’ tab on the chart above controls for backlogs of probable cases and better shows the rise over recent weeks.

Confirmed cases are those with a positive molecular test, which takes longer but is considered more accurate. And though confirmed cases are slightly up, reported deaths are down significantly this week. The state reported 73 total virus deaths this

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Alabama adds 3,852 COVID cases after influx of backlogged data dating back to June

Alabama added more than 3,800 COVID cases yesterday after a huge influx of backlogged data dating back to June.

The Alabama Department of Public Health showed a total of 180,916 coronavirus cases in the state, up 3,852 from the day before. Of that total, 973 were confirmed cases and 2,879 were probable. Of that 2,879, the 2,565 were antigen tests from a facility in Mobile that dated back to the summer.

The cases “will be classified as probable COVID-19 cases reported on 10/22/20 even though the tests were performed during June through Oct. 18. All laboratories are required by law to report all results (including positive and negative results) for (COVID-19) to ADPH,” the agency said in an announcement.

“Delays in reporting by required reporters is not within control of ADPH. Processing the backlog will not impact the ADPH COVID-19 Risk Indicator Dashboard,” ADPH added.

The state added 16 deaths to bring its total to 2,859.

ADPH reports 864 patients are currently hospitalized due to coronavirus.

Here are the latest county-by-county numbers from the Alabama Department of Public Health. The numbers include both confirmed and probable cases with the overnight increases shown in parenthesis:

Autauga – 2030 (+7)

Baldwin – 6615 (+140)

Barbour – 1012 (+15)

Bibb – 825 (+14)

Blount – 1911 (+13)

Bullock – 639 (+2)

Butler – 1002 (+1)

Calhoun – 4224 (+35)

Chambers – 1343 (+7)

Cherokee – 731 (+5)

Chilton – 1858 (+17)

Choctaw – 390 (+2)

Clarke – 1336 (+36)

Clay – 736 (+7)

Cleburne – 551 (+8)

Coffee – 1732 (+15)

Colbert – 1987 (+20)

Conecuh – 560 (+3)

Coosa – 203 (+1)

Covington – 1714 (+15)

Crenshaw – 603 (+1)

Cullman – 2399 (+42)

Dale – 1665 (+11)

Dallas – 1863 (+1)

DeKalb – 3360 (+58)

Elmore – 3173 (+24)

Escambia – 1722 (+3)

Etowah – 4214 (+27)

Fayette – 569 (+8)

Franklin – 2032 (+11)

Geneva – 861 (+9)

Greene – 342

Hale – 758 (+9)

Henry – 643 (+4)

Houston – 3717 (+25)

Jackson – 2125 (+25)

Jefferson – 22987 (+137)

Lamar – 474 (+8)

Lauderdale – 2180 (+32)

Lawrence – 837 (+16)

Lee – 6517 (+21)

Limestone – 2797 (+32)

Lowndes – 704 (+1)

Macon – 530 (+1)

Madison – 9228 (+78)

Marengo – 1002 (+10)

Marion – 1071 (+9)

Marshall – 4372 (+42)

Mobile – 16,788 (+2,320)

Monroe – 645 (+5)

Montgomery – 9978 (+103)

Morgan – 4071 (+35)

Perry – 585 (+2)

Pickens – 836 (+12)

Pike – 1327 (+4)

Randolph – 820 (+8)

Russell – 1928 (+5)

St. Clair – 2891 (+20)

Shelby – 7274 (+70)

Sumter – 472 (+2)

Talladega – 2636 (+25)

Tallapoosa – 1313 (+8)

Tuscaloosa – 10,235 (+87)

Walker – 2755 (+33)

Washington – 734 (+100)

Wilcox – 564 (+2)

Winston – 919 (+6)

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Alabama official with COVID opposes mask mandate

Alabama Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth said Thursday that he remains opposed to mandatory mask orders despite being diagnosed with COVID-19, even though he encourages people to wear one.

The Republican lieutenant governor announced Wednesday that he tested positive for the coronavirus. He said he sought a test after learning someone in his Sunday school group had COVID-19.

“I have always encouraged mask-wearing, and I wear one in my daily life, Ainsworth said in a statement, adding that: “At the same time, I believe in personal responsibility and think everyone has the right to make their own choices regarding their health.”

Ainsworth has been critical of the state’s COVID-19 response under Republican Gov. Kay Ivey. In March, he criticized what he said at the time was the state’s slow response to prepare for a possible “tsunami of hospital patients.” But he has also been critical of the state’s mandatory mask order. He said last month that “masks should be voluntary, not mandatory.”

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— France extends curfew to 38 regions because of coronavirus surge

— African health officials expect WHO distribution of rapid virus tests

— Oxford vaccine trial continues amid death report

— Britain offering financial help for bars, pubs and restaurants struggling because of restrictions due to the coronavirus.

— Czech Republic enters second lockdown to avoid health system collapse. New measures include closing stores, shopping malls and hotels.

— Photographer in Dubai providing free photo shoots to laid-off expats forced to leave the skyscraper-studded Persian Gulf city because of the pandemic.

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Follow all of AP’s coronavirus pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

Tallahassee, Fla. — Florida plans to more closely scrutinize deaths attributed to the coronavirus, as the state Department of Health notes some people listed as COVID-19 fatalities died months after testing positive.

The state will not backtrack to reexamine the more than 16,000 deaths attributed to the virus, but rather take a closer look at deaths going forward, said Fred Piccolo, a spokesman for Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, speaking Thursday.

And the state won’t immediately discount those who tested positive for coronavirus and died weeks afterwards, recognizing the virus may have caused damage that contributed to the death, he added.

Florida reported more than 5,500 new COVID-19 cases Thursday, raising the seven-day average in daily reported cases to about 3,300. That’s about 1,000 more per day since the beginning of the month.

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Gov. Kristi Noem has insisted South Dakota is excelling in its handling of the pandemic, although the state surpassed 9,000 active coronavirus cases and matched an all-time high for deaths reported in a day.

The state ranks second in the country in new infections per capita over the last two weeks, according to Johns Hopkins University data. There were about 1,036 new cases per 100,000 people in South Dakota, meaning that about one in every 97 people in the state has tested

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Outbreak Alabama: UAB doctor gets real about COVID outlook

Listen to “Outbreak Alabama: Stories from a Pandemic,” above.

Today, we hear from Dr. Michael Saag, director of the Division of Infectious Disease at UAB, worked to educate the public about COVID-19 early during the pandemic, tested positive for the disease in March. He’s since recovered and said he feels even more connected to his patients because of it.

It was right before his own diagnosis last spring that he warned, in an AL.com Op-Ed, that Alabama was not prepared for the onslaught to come of COVID-19. Since then, the state has had 174,528 confirmed cases and 2,805 deaths, according to the Alabama Department of public health.

I spoke to Dr. Saag about a range of topics related to COVID-19, including why wearing a mask saves lives, why he’s hopeful but not confident about the vaccine timeline, how treatments have evolved dramatically, why we are failing to contain the disease, how the pandemic was politicized and why, in spite of everything, he remains encouraged about the future in Alabama.

“Outbreak Alabama” will release two or three episodes per week, chronicling the experiences of those directly impacted by COVID-19′s spread, including health care professionals, business owners, city leaders, artists, AL.com reporters and many others.

If you or anyone you know is affected by coronavirus and want to share your story, please email [email protected] For all of our coverage on the outbreak and how it continues to impact Alabama, visit AL.com/coronavirus.

Listen and subscribe on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, Acast or wherever you get your podcasts. If you like the show, please rate it and write us a review. Thank you for listening.

This is the final episode of “Outbreak Alabama” for now. It does not mean the show is done for good. We’ll call it the season finale. Thanks to all who have listened and contributed. Follow Ben Flanagan on Twitter.

More from Outbreak Alabama:

Voting during the pandemic

Running a haunted house during COVID

Why are hospitalizations up in college towns?

A funeral director’s perspective

Some parents have had it with virtual learning

When your kid gives you COVID

UA students are anxious

Sidewalk at the drive-in

The situation at Auburn

A cluster at UA

Finally, some good news

How are our schools doing so far?

Going back to college

Why do we suck at this?

Close one restaurant, open another

Being black with COVID-19

Are bars really the problem?

Historic theaters in ‘grave situation’

Will the college football season really happen?

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Alabama Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth tests positive for covid-19

“After being notified this afternoon that a member of my Sunday school church group had acquired the coronavirus, I was tested out of an abundance of caution and received notice that the results proved positive,” Ainsworth said in a statement.

“One of the worst aspects of America’s divided politics is the polarization of something as practical as a mask. It’s not a partisan or cultural symbol,” Christie wrote in the Wall Street Journal. “Wear it or you may regret it — as I did.”

Unlike Christie, Ainsworth said on Wednesday that he has consistently obeyed public health guidelines.

“Because I follow social distancing rules and wear a mask both in church and in my daily interactions, the positive result shows that even those of us who are the most cautious can be at risk,” Ainsworth said in his statement.

The former state representative has been a prominent — and often contrarian — voice in Alabama’s coronavirus response. In March, he publicly clashed with Ivey after penning a sharp letter accusing the state of failing to procure enough personal protective equipment and not doing enough to free up space for an incoming “tsunami of hospital patients.”

When Ivey locked the state down in April, Ainsworth worked on a report demanding that the governor reopen a slew of small businesses, including restaurants and retail shops. In July, he called Ivey’s mask mandate a “one-size fits all, big government requirement” and said her order was “the wrong way to go about encouraging their use.”

Like many states, Alabama has seen a recent resurgence of coronavirus cases. The state, which has tallied more than 174,000 cases and 2,800 deaths to date, has recorded more than 5,300 new cases and 49 deaths since last week, according to The Washington Post’s coronavirus tracker.

For now, Ainsworth said he is asymptomatic and plans to quarantine and run follow-up tests to ensure he’s virus-free before going back to work in public. His wife, children and mother all tested negative for the virus, he said.

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Survey: Alabama child care enrollment down by 23,000 kids

Enrollment in child care centers across Alabama has dropped by more than 23,000 children since the coronavirus pandemic began even though most facilities have reopened, a new state report showed Wednesday.

While 85% of the 2,381 facilities surveyed by the Department of Human Resources have reopened since the initial lockdown period that forced businesses to close in March, centers are operating at only 66% of capacity compared to 88% in January, a news release said Wednesday.

Overall October enrollment in licensed centers, licensed family child care homes and exempt facilities was down by 23,241 kids, the agency said.

“The providers that have been able to reopen are providing a much-needed service to the people of Alabama. As the survey reveals, however, not all children have returned to their child care providers,” Human Resources Commissioner Nancy Buckner said.

The department didn’t say what was behind the decline, but Alabama’s unemployment rate is up from a year ago and many people are still working from home, possibly reducing the need for child care.

More than 2,800 people have died from COVID-19 in the state, which ranks 20th highest in the nation for fatalities on a per-person basis, and almost 175,000 have tested positive, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

Health officials say key pandemic statistics are worsening in Alabama as cases also rise across much of the nation.

While most people who contract the coronavirus recover after suffering only mild to moderate symptoms, it can be deadly for older patients and those with other health problems.

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Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

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