BY KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press
MONTGOMERY — State health and school officials urged people to take precautions Tuesday as the new coronavirus spreads across the country, even as Alabama remained officially free of cases.
Alabama State Health Officer Scott Harris said that there have been no confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in Alabama, but he expects that to change as the virus spreads.
Harris said the state laboratory has so far tested 20 people for the new virus strain, in addition to tests done at private labs, and that no positive tests have been reported.
“We have not found any positive tests so far. We expect at some point that we will. As you know, many of the surrounding states in the Southeast have cases now,” Harris said at a news conference.
Harris emphasized that not everyone will need a test.
State health and school officials urged people to stay home if they are sick, to cover coughs and sneezes and to contact their health provider by telephone if they develop symptoms and have concerns they may have been exposed.
Alabama EMA Director Brian Hastings said while there are no confirmed cases in Alabama, it does not mean the virus isn’t circulating in the state.
“We have no confirmed cases in Alabama. That doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t have a case in Alabama. What we’ve seen in the younger population is that they sometimes have the sniffles or a cold and go about their business,” Hastings said.
Schools could close briefly if someone at a school were diagnosed with the virus, the state school chief said.
Superintendent Eric Mackey said the recommendation is for schools to close for 24 to 48 hours if a student or school employee tests positive for the coronavirus in order to assess the situation, Mackey said.
Mackey said school systems are being advised not to take school trips overseas, partly because of the risk of being caught in a quarantine.
“It’s not necessarily just about catching the virus overseas, but we are seeing a rash of confinements overseas and quarantines,” he said.
Mackey said school systems have been given guidance. It includes urging people who have traveled to outbreak hotspots to immediately contact their health provider if they develop symptoms.
The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. In mainland China, where the virus first exploded, more than 80,000 people have been diagnosed and more than 58,000 have so far recovered.”