Global Statistics

All countries
156,447,590
Confirmed
Updated on May 6, 2021 6:01 pm
All countries
134,589,238
Recovered
Updated on May 6, 2021 6:01 pm
All countries
3,263,861
Deaths
Updated on May 6, 2021 6:01 pm

Global Statistics

All countries
156,447,590
Confirmed
Updated on May 6, 2021 6:01 pm
All countries
134,589,238
Recovered
Updated on May 6, 2021 6:01 pm
All countries
3,263,861
Deaths
Updated on May 6, 2021 6:01 pm

‘Worst fears’: Mobile County grapples with rising COVID-19 cases

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Mobile County saw numbers jump during lockdown, passing other Alabama counties, leading Alabama in coronavirus cases and deaths. But the outbreak seemed to level out in Mobile, at least relative to recent surges in Montgomery and now Jefferson counties.

But now Mobile health officials are worried the numbers are beginning to climb again and city officials are talking about taking one big step to stop another rapid rise: Requiring masks.

“I am really worried about the direction this seems to be going in,” said Dr. Rendi Murphree, an epidemiologist who is the director of the Mobile County Health Department’s Bureau of Disease Surveillance and Environmental Services, referring to an uptick in deaths from one to three within a the past week. “We have had an extreme rise in cases. I expect our worst fears will be true.”

Mobile city officials plan to debate and could vote on a mask ordinance during its Tuesday meeting.

Mobile County has added over 520 new cases of coronavirus over the past week. And while that number lags behind the recent rise in Jefferson County, officials with USA Health and the Mobile County Public Health Department expressed concerns that hospitalizations could rise again if safe social distancing practices are not adhered to quickly.

“There are more cases popping up,” said Dr. Michael Chang, chief medical officer at USA Health. “As best as we can tell, it’s a combination of more testing and significantly more disease. In Alabama, in late April, we had 500 patients across the state hospitalized with COVID-19. Now, it’s up to 700 and going up steadily.”

Chang said that hospital bed capacity, however, remains “in a controllable range” at USA Health. The hospital is also participating in a joint effort with the city to provide testing to the general public at the Mobile Civic Center. Up to 250 patients a day are being tested at the public testing site.

Wear a mask

Chang, meanwhile, said wearing a face covering is one of three foundations toward stopping the spread of COVID-19 that he is imploring the public to consider during the Fourth of July weekend. The other two include standing at a 6-foot distance from others, and wash hands frequently.

“Masking is absolutely key,” said Chang. “It’s one part of a three-legged stool. It protects the wearer and the people who the wearer is exposed to. Strict hand washing is important as well and maintaining that 6-foot social distancing. Those three things working together … cumulative is more effective than (doing one of those three) individually.”

The council’s vote might have to wait another week. Council rules allow that the first time a new ordinance is introduced, any one council member can opt to have the vote held over for another week. Mobile City Councilman John Williams, during an interview Monday with FM Talk 106.5 host Sean Sullivan, said he planned to request the one-week layover.

But the matter most likely has the five-vote supermajority to pass. Council members Bess Rich, Levon Manzie, Fred Richardson, Joel Daves and C.J. Small have all publicly expressed support for the ordinance that would institute $50 fines against first-time violators, and $100 for a second-time offender.

Tuscaloosa and Decatur are poised to also approve mask-wearing mandates this week.

18 percent of Alabamians must wear masks, more cities could soon follow

“It is absolutely clear that the coronavirus remains very active in our community and more needs to be done to slow and stop the spread of this deadly disease,” said Small.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people age 2 and over wear face coverings as a barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling in the air and onto other people. According to the CDC, facial coverings are more likely to stop the spread of COVID-19 when widely used in public settings.

Intrusion vs. the smart thing

Masks have become a hotly debated issue in the U.S. within the past week as infections nationwide have soared to more than 40,000 per day.

But face coverings have become a polarized issue in recent weeks with some Americans viewing a mask mandate as governmental intrusion. They are also viewed through the county’s deep partisan divisions: According to the Pew Research Center, 76% of Democrats and those who lean Democratic say they personally wore a mask all or most of the time in the past month, while 53% of Republicans or Republican leaners did the same. Conservative Republicans, according to Pew, were among the least likely to have worn a mask at all or most of the time the past month with slightly less than half – 49% — saying they did. Liberal Democrats, by contrast, were 83% likely to have worn them, according to Pew.

Chang said he felt it was “never too late” for a mask ordinance, noting that the country’s battle against COVID-19 remains in its “early end.”

“We have a ways to go,” said Chang. “Anything we can do for prevention is a plus and masking is important.”

The vote in Mobile County doesn’t mean other cities in the county will follow suit. A letter signed Monday by the county’s 11 city mayors urges people to wear a cloth face cover when going out in public. However, it doesn’t mandate through ordinance that the coverings be required.

Saraland Mayor Howard Rubenstein said a mask ordinance is not under consideration.

“We are continuing to monitor the COVID-19 data and encourage our residents to follow appropriate safety guidelines including mask usage in public areas,” he said.

Mobile attributes new high in daily coronavirus cases to young people

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