It’s here: First coronavirus case in Alabama confirmed, state reports

Published 10:51 am Friday, March 13, 2020

Alabama reported its first case of coronavirus, Gov. Kay Ivey’s office announced Friday.

The case was found in a resident in Montgomery County, State Health Officer Scott Harris said.

Harris said the person had traveled to another state.

“We have been expecting to find a case for some time. We’ve tried to be very open about that. We are not surprised that we found a case,” Harris said at a news conference.

The Alabama Department of Public Health recommended that people cancel or avoid large public gatherings with more than 500 people — schools and workplaces not included.

Harris also said people should stay about 6 feet apart from others in public and to “please stay home if you are sick.”

Alabama School Superintendent Eric Mackey said schools are being advised to cancel events that could put large numbers of students and parents in a tightly packed space.

“What we have told schools is that they should, as quickly as possible, cancel or postpone events. Those might be student plays or performances or student assemblies,” Mackey said.

Many schools in the state are about to take their spring break.

Alabama was one of the last states to report a case. The state lab began testing last week, Harris said.

State labs as of Thursday had only tested about 50 people for coronavirus, all of which were previously negative.

Harris said testing at the state lab was initially limited to priority cases where people were considered most at risk because of travel to another country or because they were seriously ill.

He said testing criteria has now been liberalized and the state will test a person when a doctor’s recommends it. Private labs are also doing testing, he said.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. More than 5,000 deaths worldwide have been attributed to the virus.

Ivey urged people to remain calm and take common sense precautions.

“We have taken a calm and collected approach in preparation for this first confirmed case, and we need to remember that calm and steady wins the race,” Ivey said in a statement. “Alabamians should not be fearful, but instead, use commonsense to watch out for themselves and others. We will remain engaged on the matter and continue prioritizing the health and wellbeing of all Alabamians.”

Major universities, including he University of Alabama, Auburn University, Troy University and other institutions on Thursday announced a shift to online classes.