Alabama local/state Coronavirus updates (March 10 edition)

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Hand sanitizer is sold out at a grocery store Thursday, March 5, 2020, in Nashville, Tenn. Tennessee has confirmed its first case of the new coronavirus, state Department of Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey announced in a Thursday morning news conference. The announcement came two days after deadly tornadoes went through the area, increasing the demand for sanitation supplies. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

This is our first in a series of collective Coronavirus (COVID-19) updates from around the state. This update includes statements from Governor Kay Ivey, the Alabama Department of Public Health and the City of Birmingham. 

For up to the minute and detailed information from the Alabama Department of Health please visit their resource center here.

Governor Kay Ivey latest update (03/06/2020):

Governor Kay Ivey on Friday announced the formation of a Coronavirus (COVID-19) Task Force of cabinet and state agency officials, as well as disease specialists in an abundance of caution. The task force held its initial discussion Friday morning.

“While there are no known cases in Alabama, I have gathered the experts in an effort to be as prepared as possible should the Coronavirus affect Alabama,” said Governor Kay Ivey. “The safety of Alabamians is paramount, and we will do everything we can to limit exposure to this illness. I appreciate the willingness of these individuals, from both the public and private sector, to serve as we do everything we can to mitigate risk for the people of Alabama and to keep the citizens of the state informed of our plans.”

The task force will discuss any developments and precautions on a routine basis and will make recommendations to the governor as necessary. Governor Ivey has designated Dr. Scott Harris to serve as chair of the task force and to lead any public announcements and directives.

The members are as follows:

  • Scott Harris, State Health Officer, Alabama Department of Public Health (Chair)

  • Governor Kay Ivey

  • Lt. Governor Will Ainsworth

  • President Pro Tempore Del Marsh

  • Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon

  • Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed

  • House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter

  • Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton

  • House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels

  • Jeanne Marrazzo, Director of the Division of Infectious Diseases, UAB School of Medicine

  • John Vande Waa, Infectious Disease Specialist, University of South Alabama School of Medicine

  • Don Williamson, President/ CEO, Alabama Hospital Association

  • Brandon Farmer, President/ CEO, Alabama Nursing Home Association

  • Eric Mackey, State Superintendent, Alabama State Department of Education

  • Brian Hastings, Director, Alabama Emergency Management Agency

  • Hal Taylor, Secretary, Alabama Law Enforcement Agency

  • Greg Canfield, Secretary, Alabama Department of Commerce

  • Commissioner Nancy Buckner, Alabama Department of Human Resources

Alabama Department of Public Health Update:

ADPH state laboratory now tests for novel coronavirus COVID-19

Effective March 5, the Alabama Department of Public Health Bureau of Clinical Laboratories (BCL) began conducting SARS-CoV-2 testing. Physicians are asked to refer to the Health Alert Network (HAN) sent out today for specific testing criteria and are required to call ADPH for consultation if the patient meets the criteria based on specific epidemiologic exposures for COVID-19 infection.

In addition to the criteria for testing by BCL provided in the HAN Alert, guidance is also available at the following link:

http://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/infectiousdiseases/cov-healthcare.html

State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said, “While the risk of this new Coronavirus disease remains low in Alabama, we have been working diligently to prepare for any cases that may occur. We are providing education about our recommendations in coordination with other groups.”

If the patient does not meet the criteria, healthcare providers are encouraged to contact larger commercial laboratories where they normally refer specimens to determine if that laboratory can perform SARS-CoV-2 testing. There are a number of other respiratory viruses causing respiratory illnesses in Alabama including several common types of Coronaviruses, Rhinoviruses, and several types of flu viruses. It is important that testing for these viruses occur. Other testing should be sent to commercial laboratories from the healthcare provider.

ADPH continues to work with the CDC and other agencies to provide guidance regarding COVID-19 as more is learned. To help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses including COVID-19, the following normal precautions are recommended:

  • Wash hands with soap and water.
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers if handwashing is not possible.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, or cough or sneeze into your elbow.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Stay home when sick.
  • Stay away from people who are sick.

Visit alabamapublichealth.gov for more COVID-19 information.

City of Birmingham:

Mayor Woodfin updates city response to COVID-19 Coronavirus (March 10)

Mayor Randall L. Woodfin urges residents to “be a good neighbor” and check on those vulnerable to the potential of COVID-19 – the new coronavirus discovered in China in December 2019.

“As of right now, there have been no cases of coronavirus confirmed in Alabama,” Mayor Woodfin said. “We have stayed in close contact with health officials and monitored updates from the Centers for Disease Control, Alabama Department of Public Health and Jefferson County Department of Health.”

The city continues to communicate with employees concerning protocols to encourage preventive actions and to ensure clean and sanitized city facilities in keeping with CDC Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection Recommendations.

Mayor Woodfin has also suspended non-essential travel by city employees for city business. Non-essential travel is travel considered not absolutely necessary to perform basic city services.

“As a community, we must move on with day to day life. We have city functions to perform. We have jobs, businesses, schools and families to maintain,” Mayor Woodfin said. “But we must all work together as a community to take preventive steps identified by the CDC.”

The CDC has advised:

· Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.

· Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap is not available.

· Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using regular household cleaning sprays or wipes.

· Stay home if you feel sick.

The CDC does not recommend that people wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses. Only wear a facemask if you already have symptoms so you can prevent the spreading of germs.

The CDC identifies certain people as a higher risk for getting very sick from coronavirus.

· Older adults

· People who have serious chronic medical conditions like:

o Heart disease

o Diabetes

o Lung disease

The City of Birmingham provides updates and links concerning coronavirus at www.birminghamal.gov/coronavirus.