Alabama’s top health official: ‘We wish our numbers were better’

Published 10:15 pm Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Alabama State Health Officer Scott Harris said the state’s coronavirus numbers are “not as good as we could hope for” as outbreaks continue.

Harris said the trend in coronavirus numbers “depends which part of the state you are looking at.”

“Obviously, we wish our numbers were better. They are not as good as we could hope for. But, in parts of the state, they are not increasing in a huge way. We have some outbreaks. I think certain counties look significantly worse because of that,” Harris said in an interview.

Butler, Mobile, Marshall and Franklin counties are among the counties experiencing outbreaks, he said. Montgomery and Mobile are among the counties with large hospitalization numbers, he said.

Harris urged people to continue to take precautions.

“The whole country is moving toward opening up. Generally speaking, the health numbers by themselves warn us that we’ve got to be extremely careful,” Harris said.

“If you are a senior or if you have chronic health problems, it doesn’t matter whether the businesses are open again, you need to protect yourself. The danger has not gone away,” he said.

As of Tuesday, more than 12,000 people in the state had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, and more than 500 people statewide had died.

Alabama has added as many as 350 new cases per day in the past two weeks, and the state’s average number of new cases has continued to climb.

However, Harris said he believes the state is now meeting the White House criteria to proceed to an initial reopening by having a downward trajectory for two weeks in the percentage of positive tests.

“But that may not apply to every single county,” Harris said.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey lifted a stay home order on April 30 and allowed restaurants, salons and gyms to open on May 11.

Harris said it will take up to three weeks to judge if cases are on the rise because it can take up to two weeks from exposure for a person to develop symptoms and several more days for the symptoms to become severe enough that the person seeks medical care.

The current health order will expire Friday. The governor is expected to announce sometime this week whether that will be lifted or continue.