New COVID-19 cases shot up in Alabama on Friday, surpassing 1,500, and at least 38 people in the state have died after testing positive for the coronavirus that causes the disease, officials reported.
The state Public Health Department’s count of positive tests for the virus Friday rose to 1,515. Among local counties, new cases brought the total in St. Clair County to 23, and in Calhoun County to 19. Talladega County has 12 reported cases and Cleburne County has seven.
Thursday saw the count of cases statewide rise by 245, by far the largest daily increase of the crisis since the first cases were reported March 13.
Of the 38 people in Alabama known to have died after testing positive for COVID-19, Public Health says it has confirmed 21 of those died because of the disease. There were no reported deaths in local counties as of Friday morning. The Public Health Department’s latest updates to its count show deaths in 17 of Alabama’s 67 counties.
No information about patients, such as age, sex or other factors has been reported by Public Health for any of the known cases. Health officials have said they release only patients’ county of residence to protect their privacy.
The known cases statewide come from at least 9,581 tests, the Public Health Department reported.
Gov. Kay Ivey, in an attempt to slow the disease's spread in Alabama, ordered resident to stay at home beginning 5 p.m. Saturday through April 30. There are exceptions for "essential activities," but the governor urged people to take the order seriously, and officials said it carried the force of law.
"I am convinced earlier efforts at social distancing have not been enough," Ivey said at a news conference in Montgomery. "And that’s why we’re taking this more drastic step."
Much of the state, nation and world is adjusting to increasingly dramatic action to halt the spread of the new coronavirus and the illness it causes. In Washington, experts at a White House briefing on the disease on Tuesday afternoon said that even with widespread limits on people’s movements and on businesses and schools, the United States can expect to see between 100,000 and 240,000 deaths from COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of Thursday 4,513 people in the U.S. had died of the disease.
Layoffs and other losses have begun hitting workers in many industries, as people heed warnings to remain at home as much as possible. Thousands of Alabama workers have filed unemployment claims over the last three weeks, according to the state’s Labor Department.
This weekend, President Donald Trump announced that federal government guidelines for social distancing to limit the spread of the virus will be extended through April 30. In Washington, Congress last week approved and Trump signed a relief package reportedly worth more than $2 trillion that includes cash payments to most Americans, expanded unemployment benefits, loans for small businesses and other aid for some industries and hospitals.