By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama added more than 5,000 coronavirus cases over the last 14 days as the state lifted restrictions.
As of Thursday morning more than 16,000 people had tested positive for coronavirus in Alabama and 583 had died.
“The last two days we have maybe had our highest days so far. We know a little bit of that has to do with increased testing, but I don’t think that explains all of it,” State Health Officer Scott Harris said.
The state this month lifted most of the restrictions that had been in place, allowing restaurants, hair salons, entertainment venues and other places to open with social distancing requirements. The Memorial Day weekend drew crowds to Alabama’s Gulf Coast beaches.
Harris urged people to follow social distancing guidelines and take precautions.
“People now more than ever need to be careful about observing six-foot distance, about wearing face coverings, about sanitation and hygiene. All those are more important than they’ve ever been because we have more people out doing more things,” Harris said.
Dr. Rachael Lee, an epidemiologist with the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said the increase is concerning and likely can be attributed to a combination of more testing and “having more people open and out and around.”
“This increase that we’re seeing is concerning to me and part of that may be due to relaxing some restrictions. Part of it may be not wearing masks in public or having larger events, which is what we would be concerned about for Memorial Day weekend.” Lee said at a news conference.
Lee urged people to take precautions.
Similarly, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox pleaded with people to remain vigilant as coronavirus hospitalizations in his city begin to rise.
“Think about more than just yourself,” Maddox told the Tuscaloosa News. “Think about your family. Think about your community. Think about a small business owner that just got the chance to get their business going again.”
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up within weeks. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and be fatal.