New coronavirus cases in Alabama nearly double after reopening, expert says

The average number of daily cases of the novel coronavirus in Alabama has nearly doubled since the state began reopening, an infectious disease expert in the state said this week.

Daily cases have increased from roughly 250 to nearly 500 in recent days, Dr. Jodie Dionne-Odom, a specialist in infectious diseases at UAB Health, told AL.com, adding that 90 percent of counties across the state are reporting increases.

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“It’s important to get the message out that COVID-19 is not gone,” Dionne-Odom told the outlet. “There is clearly a relationship between reopening and the number of cases we are seeing right now.”

The state began easing stay-at-home orders in May, with non-essential businesses reopening around the same time. Cases have increased since reopening began, with social gatherings and other activities over Memorial Day weekend likely being behind recent spikes, the infectious disease specialist said.

Dionne-Odom also warned the surge is not linked to increased coronavirus testing within the state; Alabama tests about 5,000 people a day, a number that has “held steady,” per the outlet.

The state could see a reintroduction of lockdown measures if cases increase to the point that hospitals are overwhelmed, she added.

The news comes as more than a dozen states and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico have reportedly recorded their highest averages of new coronavirus cases since the pandemic first hit the U.S. Hospitalizations in at least nine states have also increased since Memorial Day.

More specifically, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Kentucky, New Mexico, North Carolina, Mississippi, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah, as well as  Puerto Rico, have recorded their highest seven-day average increases in new cases since the start of the pandemic.

Increasing numbers also led the country's top infectious disease expert this week to issue a warning as states continue to steadily reopen.

“When you open, not everything is OK; [you] can’t do whatever you want, still need to practice a degree of caution,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a Wednesday morning appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

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All citizens “should still wear a mask, try to have physical distancing [from others], washing hands as often as you can, and avoid congregation in large numbers,” he continued, reiterating the best health practices experts have been stressing for months. “Even though everyone wants to approach normality and get things back to normal, it doesn't mean all bets are off. So that's why we say be careful and be prudent."