MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama on Friday added almost 3,000 COVID-19 cases, the highest number reported in a single day since the pandemic began. Health officials believe many of those cases arose from Halloween parties, sporting events and other group gatherings.
“This is a new record for us,” State Health Officer Scott Harris told The Associated Press. “Overall, we believe the number accurately shows that Alabama is seeing increased community transmission of COVID-19.”
Harris said unlike past surges of that size, the increase is not due to a large data dump of previously backlogged reporting. He did however acknowledge that a few of the cases may be from the past few weeks.
The Alabama Department of Public Health said a preliminary analysis indicates that a large number of these cases are from social gatherings of more than 10 persons, including attendance at such events as fall or Halloween parties, sporting events, work-related meetings, and church-sponsored activities. Cases from schools, universities, health care workers, congregate settings, long-term care, and travel were also a factor, the department said.
Health officials have expressed concern about an uptick in hospitalizations and deaths as the nation heads into the holiday season.
“When you see the kind of jump in cases we’re seeing now, that clearly demonstrates community transmission,” said Dr. Don Williamson, the state’s former longtime state health officer who now heads the Alabama Hospital Association.
Williamson said he suspects the increase is because of people loosening their precautions and socializing more and having “gatherings with more people without masks.”
Since the pandemic began in Alabama, more than 213,000 people have tested positive for the disease and more than 3,200 have died, according to state health officials. Alabama K-12 public schools reported 1,592 cases last week among students, teachers and staff, according to state numbers.
“Warning lights are flashing, and we’re seeing the telltale signs trending toward what could be a deadly second wave of Coronavirus,” Montgomery Mayor Steven L. Reed said in a statement.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey this summer announced a statewide mask order which health officials credited with a drop in cases.
Ivey this month extended the mask order, which has drawn the ire of some conservatives in the state, but lifted occupancy limits on stores and restaurants. She cited the need to help businesses make up lost economic ground.
Williamson said he has concerns about the loosening of the restrictions because crowded spaces heighten the chances that someone is carrying the virus.
The Republican governor said she is trying to balance health and economic concerns. A spokeswoman said she also opposes any additional closures.
“Like many Alabamians, Governor Ivey does not believe that closures are the answer for our state – or our country, for that matter,” spokeswoman Gina Maiola said Friday.
The illness causes only mild to moderate symptoms for most people, but it can be deadly for the elderly and people with other, serious health problems.