By KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Alabama Department of Corrections reported Thursday that two more inmates and several more employees have tested positive for COVID-19.
The prison system said in a news release that a total of 57 staff members, including contract staff, and 11 inmates have so far tested positive for the virus. Twelve of the staff members have returned to work after recovering. Two inmate cases remain active.
The latest two inmates to test positive had been housed for an extended period in the infirmary at Kilby Correctional Facility for treatment of preexisting medical conditions. The inmates have been transferred to a hospital.
The prison system says the infirmary at Kilby has been quarantined.
As of Thursday, more than 16,000 people had tested positive for coronavirus in the state and 580 people have died, according to numbers from the Alabama Department of Public Health. More than 5,000 of the cases were reported in the last two weeks.
State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said the state this week had 600 cases in one day, the highest number the state has seen.
He said some of the increase is explained by additional testing, but there is also indication of community spread in some areas.
About half of the state’s deaths have occurred in nursing homes, Harris said.
Harris said precautions, such as wearing a mask and standing apart from others, are particularly important as more people go out in public.
“We really need you to do the right thing, and do it for those in your community,” Harris said.
U.S. Sen. Doug Jones on Thursday praised the governor for opening up the state “wisely” but said he is concerned that many people appear to be cavalier about taking precautions.
“You only have to see the pictures from the beaches and other places in Alabama and around the country to see that people are not quite getting the message that this virus is still out there. It is still dangerous. It is still deadly,” Jones said.