At the Dec. 14 Coffee County Commission meeting Coffee County EMA Director James Brown gave an update on the continuingly rising COVID-19 numbers in the area.
Brown said that Coffee County has gone from 21 new cases per day two weeks ago to 35 new cases per day. He said that Coffee County has seen 480 new cases in the past two weeks.
The outlook is dire all across the state as Brown mentioned that the state is averaging 2,800 new COVID-19 cases per day, a record, and the state is also setting records for hospitalizations. Brown said that on Nov. 1 there were 973 patients hospitalized due to COVID-19 and that number has jumped to 2,248 presently.
“Due to this surge some of the hospitals, not in our local area but more up north, have started to treat patients at home and I think you’re going to see more of that happening,” Brown said.
Brown said that another key issue is that there continues to be a staffing issue at hospitals around the state, which was a problem in Alabama even before COVID-19 hit.
Brown said that residents have to be responsible if any progress is going to be made.
“We have to do something. We have to strongly encourage people to be responsible, personal responsibility,” Brown urged. “With that comes community cooperation. We need people’s cooperation to at least do the big three: masks, wear them; hands, wash them; distance from others, keep it.”
Brown said that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) consider Alabama – and Coffee County – a high risk area and he said they urge even more precaution, which he is echoing.
“I’m going beyond (the big three) today and I will be the Grinch and tell you what the CDC and ADPH recommends when we get to this level,” he said. “Besides those big three they want us to limit our out-of-state travel. So, unless it’s an emergency you probably shouldn’t go see grandma (out of state) this Christmas.
“Avoid groups of 20 or more, so don’t go to that big Christmas party. You should get takeout rather than dining in at restaurants and I hate to say it, because I love going to church myself, but worship should be held online. Those are the recommendations when we are at the level we are right now. I can’t make people do anything, all I can do is make suggestions and those are the suggestions I would make.”
Recently the CDC issued quarantine guidelines that the ADPH has partially accepted. Originally, the CDC recommended that anyone that is exposed to someone with COVID-19 quarantine themselves for 14 days, with or without a negative test. Now, the CDC has altered that to a 10-day quarantine for those that have not taken a test but have not shown symptoms either. Also, the CDC recommends that someone who takes a negative test should quarantine for seven days. The ADPH, however, has decided not to accept the 7-day guideline because of the lack of available testing in the state.
“Part of the reason for that is there isn’t enough testing out there right now,” Brown said. “So, if we have a bunch of people that aren’t showing any symptoms going out wanting to get a test it could hamper those that are showing symptoms that need a test.”
The CDC and ADPH considers anyone to be “exposed” to COVID-19 as someone that has come into close contact – within six feet indoors – for 15 minutes or more of a COVID-19 positive patient or someone showing symptoms of COVID-19.
Brown said another issue our state is seeing is people that have tested positive for COVID-19 still going out into public.
“I get at least 5-6 calls a week with people reporting others that are out with COVID-19. People that have tested positive and are out in the general public, some with masks and some without masks,” Brown said. “That’s one thing we have to ingrain in people. If you’ve been exposed or especially if you have tested positive you definitely need to stay home.”