As the state continues pushing for more COVID-19 testing, especially in rural counties where test collections are taken less frequently, Lawrence County Health Department says it has also seen an increase in test requests.
Last month, health clinics in Lawrence and Morgan counties began test collections twice weekly, but as demand has increased each clinic also holds “overflow clinics” as needed week to week, Alabama Department of Public Health Area Administrator Judy Smith said.
“We’ve seen some increase in requests last week in the Moulton area, and in Morgan County, we also had some increase,” Smith said on Monday. “Even though the clinics are advertised for two days, if there is a need, those tests will fall into an overflow clinic on another day.”
Lawrence County Health Department began collecting samples from individuals who qualified for testing every Tuesday and Thursday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. as needed in early April.
Smith said individuals who seek testing in either county are still urged to call ahead for testing, but those collection sites have also expanded to individuals who may not necessarily be symptomatic.
“If there is a need—for example if they’re a healthcare worker, if they are associated with a long-term care facility, or the jail, or if they are a first responder—if there is a need, even if they have not developed symptoms at this time, we will test them,” she said. “We don’t want to waste test materials for people who it’s not appropriate to test for, but if together we feel like there’s any indication, then we will make a decision about proceeding with the test.”
She said individuals who seek testing at either health clinic typically receive results, whether positive or negative, within three to five business days because it takes one day to ship test specimens to the state lab in Montgomery.
Once results are received, Smith said each department calls test subjects with additional instructions based on their individual situations. She said tested individuals fall into three categories.
There is an incubation period thought to last 14 days with a median time of four to five days from exposure to the time symptoms begin to emerge, a quarantine expiration period when individuals are presumed recovered, and a small number of people, Smith said who may no longer be symptomatic but have not passed their quarantine date.
“Usually about two-thirds of folks, this is what we’re seeing, have passed the quarantine period. Another third, depending on how many you have tested recently are still in their quarantine period, and then certainly, we do count anybody that’s in the hospital, they’re automatically not considered recovered,” she said. “Lawrence County has been very fortunate in that they have had no deaths at this point.”
By Wednesday morning, ADPH reported 35 confirmed positive cases in Lawrence County, up nine cases from last week reports.
According to data collected by Lawrence County’s interim 911 Director Scott Norwood, at least 19 of those cases have passed their quarantine expiration dates as of Thursday, May 21.
No deaths as a result of COVID-19 had been reported in Lawrence County as of 7 a.m. on Wednesday. Morgan County reported its first coronavirus death last week, and by Wednesday had reported 122 confirmed cases.
According to ADPH data, a total of 12,701 confirmed cases were reported for the state, up from 10,468 last week. The state also recorded 508 COVID-19 deaths, up from 440 last week.
Smith said the state health department is working on tracking recovery data statewide and may begin reporting the information as early as late this week.
According to ADPH, 1,480 hospitalizations have occurred statewide since March 13, and 162,520 people have been tested. Of those tested, 66,255 were tested within the last 14 days. According to ADPH 519 tests have been tested in Lawrence County, a slight increase from the 459 reported tests for the county last week.
“Testing is extremely important. Prevention is even more important,” Smith added. “You can’t control what other people do, but you certainly can protect yourself and your family, predominantly by practicing safe social distancing, wearing the masks, and practicing god hand hygiene.”
For more information or to inquire about testing in Lawrence County, call 256-974-1141. For those seeking testing in Morgan County, call 256-353-7021.
For daily updated statistics from ADPH, visit http://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/covid19/index.html.