By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
The number of COVID-19 cases continued to climb this week, locally and statewide, but not at the accelerated pace experienced over recent weeks.
More than 6,400 new cases were confirmed across the state over the past four days, according to the twice-weekly report filed jointly by Escambia County Healthcare Authority and Alabama Department of Public Health. The state’s death toll from the virus is 1,580.
Escambia County enjoyed a slowdown in the rate of confirmed cases, as only 70 new positive test results were announced between July 31 and Tuesday, August 4. That brings the county’s total confirmed case count to 979, with 15 deaths.
Atmore Community Hospital staff has now collected 456 samples that have tested positive for COVID-19, 33 more than was reported Friday, July 31. Only 79 new samples were collected at ACH during the four-day period, bringing the hospital’s total to 456 positive cases out of 1,992 samples collected. There were 33 tests pending when the report was filed, and 25 samples have proven inconclusive.
At D.W. McMillan Memorial Hospital in Brewton, 26 new cases were reported since Friday, out of 49 specimens collected during the period between reports. That brings DWM’s total to 187 confirmed cases out of 902 specimens collected, with 18 tests pending and 20 that were inconclusive.
According to The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the novel coronavirus has had a significant impact on the county’s two nursing homes, where most patients fall into the high-risk category. In fact, based on the data provided, all but three of the county’s deaths have occurred at one of the facilities.
Through the week ended July 19, Atmore Nursing Center had experienced 33 positive cases among residents, 20 among staff members. Seven ANC deaths have been attributed to COVID-19.
The numbers are even more severe at West Gate Village Nursing Center in Brewton, where CMS reported that 65 residents and 33 staff members had tested positive through July 19. Five COVID deaths have occurred at WGV.
The validity of the data provided, including the number of cases that are still active, cannot be verified, due to a second major backlog in getting results from state-approved labs.
According to a release issued last week by Alabama Department of Public Health officials, the state “continues to experience increases in the number of COVID-19 cases. While there has been a recent decline in the percentage of persons who test positive, the state is currently facing a surge that has overwhelmed Alabama’s ability to provide test results within the 2- to 3-day turnaround time needed to expeditiously make quarantine and care decisions.”
The current turnaround time for most COVID-19 testing performed in Alabama by commercial laboratories and the state laboratory is now averaging about 7 days.
ADPH asked consumers, physicians and other providers to help make sure that those who are most vulnerable become the focus for testing: the elderly, those in congregate living settings, healthcare personnel, those with symptoms consistent with COVID-1,9 and those with underlying medical conditions that place them most at risk.
Retesting to obtain negative results before an employee is allowed to return to work is no longer recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or by ADPH.
For specific information on Isolation and Quarantine Guidance, visit https://alabamapublichealth.gov/covid19/assets/cov-timeframes-isolation-quarantine.pdf for non-healthcare personnel and https://alabamapublichealth.gov/covid19/assets/cov-timeframes-isolation-quarantine-hcp.pdf for healthcare personnel.