The Alabama Department of Public Health has included a new color-coded alert page to its COVID-19 information dashboard showing the rates of new cases are increasing or decreasing by county. Jackson County is in the “very high risk” category.
Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said the new dashboard was designed to make information about COVID more accessible and understandable to the public.
“We’ve had county-level data available on our dashboard for a few weeks, but it can be sort of difficult to interpret and to correlate and to compare yourself with other counties,” Harris said. “So, we’re going to use this mechanism as a way of letting you get just a quick glimpse at what’s going on in your county throughout the state.”
Dr. Chris Clayton, of Highlands Family Medicine in Scottsboro, said with rising COVID cases in the county he concerned about the community spread.
“Personally, I have seen firsthand what this virus is capable of, and I have two small children and other family members in the high risk category that I am trying to protect, as well as my patients and fellow neighbors in Jackson County” said Clayton. “I think it is imperative with the holiday weekend coming up for us all to take this seriously. Stay home if possible or limit to small gatherings, practice social distancing when out in public and please wear masks.”
Teresa Bruno, an infection control specialist at Highlands Medical Center, said in North Alabama there are children in hospitals right now fighting the virus, with at least one on a ventilator.
“With the July 4 holiday upon us, we know people will be out celebrating but now is not the time for younger people to let their guard down,” said Bruno.
Harris said that counties will be assigned a color designation -- red, orange, yellow or green -- based on whether the number of new cases in the county is going up or down. The ADPH says it is using the three-day average number of new cases per day to determine each county’s status, so one day with a very high or low number of test results won’t skew the data.
ADPH says it will assess the counties as follows:
- If the number of cases is staying the same or is increasing, the category will be Very High Risk (Red).
- If a county has decreasing case counts for 1 to 6 days, they will begin in the High Risk (orange) category.
- If a county is in a downward trajectory of 7-13 days, they will begin in the Moderate (yellow) category.
- If a county is in a downward trajectory of 14 or more days, they will begin in the Low Risk (green) category.
The department also released a set of guidelines for counties in each category. These are recommendations, not requirements.
Red – Very High Risk
- Wear face coverings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
- Even when visiting family or friends, wear face coverings when within 6 feet of people outside your household.
- Avoid all unnecessary travel. If you must travel, avoid crowded areas if possible.
- Telework if possible. If not, maintain a 6-foot distance from others and wear face coverings at work.
- Takeout, pickup or delivery from restaurants is strongly encouraged rather than dining in.
- Avoid groups of more than 20 people.
- Avoid unnecessary visits to hospitals, nursing homes or other residential care facilities.
- Worship online or keep 6-foot distances between people of different households.
- Children with COVID-19 should stay home or be sent home for school or child care if showing symptoms. Limit public interaction between children and do not allow children on public playgrounds.
Dr. Lonnie Albin, chief medical officer at Highlands, said COVID-19 isn’t going away.
“Our community is at high risk for spread of the virus,” said Albin. “We need to be diligent in protecting ourselves and each other, especially as we celebrate together this weekend. It will take us all working together to slow the spread of the virus in our area. If you don’t feel the need to protect yourself, please remember that you could be spreading it to others and not even know it.”
Albin said Highlands Medical Center wants to encourage everyone in the community to celebrate responsibly this weekend by wearing a mask, washing hands often and staying six feet apart.
“If we all do our part, we can help keep each other safer,” added Clayton.