Alabama cases of COVID-19 top 500 after state acknowledges first death

Jackson County reported that a county worker had died; governor confirms death

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Alabama’s count of COVID-19 cases rose above 500 on Thursday, a day after the state recorded the first death of a resident from the disease.

The Alabama Department of Public Health showed 524 confirmed cases of the virus that causes COVID-19 on its website Thursday evening. On Wednesday the state had reported 144 new cases of the disease, more by far than in any other single day of the crisis so far, including the first known case in Cleburne County.

Also on Wednesday, the death of a part-time Jackson County employee was announced by the chairman of the County Commission there in a letter circulated online. After that announcement, the Public Health Department did not include the death in an update to its count of COVID-19 cases later in the afternoon, and said in a social media post that it had confirmed no deaths. Hours later on Wednesday, Gov. Kay Ivey’s spokeswoman sent a statement from the governor confirming the death.

“I extend my prayers and deepest sympathies to the family and loved ones during these extraordinary circumstances,” the statement read. “I continue to urge everyone that this virus is real, it is deadly, and we should continue to maintain social-distancing as much as possible. Together, we will overcome these challenges and difficult days.”

The governor’s statement also credited the Public Health Department for “thoroughly investigating” the death.

Cleburne County on Wednesday saw its first case reported. On Thursday, the total in St. Clair County was six cases. Talladega County had four known cases, and two cases were known in Calhoun County.

The Public Health Department on Thursday began updating the number of known cases on its website in real time. The department’s most recent update said the state’s known cases come from tests of at least 4,082 patients.

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.

Testing has found COVID-19 cases in Alabamians as young as 2 years and as old as 97, state health officer Scott Harris said Monday. The median age of known COVID-19 patients in Alabama then was 44, Harris said, though he cautioned that the sample size was small.

Jefferson County remained the site of the state’s largest known local outbreak, with at least 162 cases of COVID-19 identified as of Thursday evening. Neighboring Shelby County had at least 53 cases, the second-highest count among the state’s counties.

COVID-19 Alabama case count

A graph showing the growth in confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Alabama, as reported by the Alabama Department of Public Health.

The rapid rise in reported cases in Alabama comes about a week after the state moved to expand testing, opening 17 screening sites as of Monday, with plans for as many as 25

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 Alabama the state government has restricted some businesses, especially restaurants and bars. Layoffs and other losses began hitting workers in those and other industries this week, as people heed warnings to remain at home as much as possible.