Limestone County's risk for spreading COVID-19 among residents and to others is once again very high, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.
The risk indicator is based on several factors, including the percentage of tests that come back positive and how many residents visit local health care facilities for COVID-like symptoms. ADPH said the risk indicator is updated each Friday based on data collected over a one-week period ending the Saturday before.
In other words, Limestone County's current risk rating, which was posted Friday, Oct. 9, is based on data from Sept. 27 through Oct. 3. Four other North Alabama counties were also labeled "very high risk" for spreading the novel coronavirus based on data from that time period.
According to ADPH, Limestone County had an 11.92% positive test rate for that week, meaning nearly 1 in 8 people who were tested for COVID-19 were confirmed positive for the disease. The county added 151 cases to its cumulative total, which on Monday sat at 2,523 confirmed or probable cases since March 13.
Some residents may be tempted to use the data being more than a week old as reason to dismiss the rating, but the county's most recent available data doesn't look much better. ADPH's data and surveillance dashboard shows the county not only broke its one-day case record Oct. 4, but matched the new record four days later, reporting 40 new cases each time.
The previous record was 38 cases, set in July and believed to be part of the spike following the Fourth of July holiday. If Limestone County is to be moved from "very high risk" to a lower category, it has to report a downward trend in daily new cases, a decrease in the positive test rate and a decline in the number of visits for COVID-like symptoms.
So far, only one of the three has been reported. When ADPH's risk label is next updated, it will be done using data collected Oct. 4–10. This will include the two days on which Limestone County reported 40 cases each, part of the 215 cases that were added to the cumulative total.
The positive test rate could also increase. According to the data and surveillance dashboard, which is updated daily, more than 1,500 people were tested for COVID-19 over the two-week period ending Monday. Of those tests, nearly 1 in 4 came back positive.
Alabama's statewide mask mandate remains in effect until Nov. 8. ADPH has issued additional guidelines for those living in counties that are considered at very high risk for spreading COVID-19.
They are as follows:
• Wear a face covering when visiting friends or family who do not live with you;
• Work at home if possible. If not possible, keep a 6-foot distance from others and wear face coverings when social distancing is not possible;
• Maintain a social distance of 6 feet or more from people of other households when in public;
• Avoid all unnecessary travel. If you must travel, avoid crowded areas whenever possible;
• Avoid groups of more than 20 people;
• Avoid unnecessary visits to hospitals, nursing homes or other residential care facilities;
• Rather than dining in, choosing takeout, pickup or delivery from restaurants is strongly encouraged;
• Hold online worship services if possible. When meeting in person, keep 6-foot distances between people who do not live together and consider holding services more frequently to allow for lower attendance — and therefore more opportunity for social distancing — at each service; and
• Do not allow children on public playgrounds, and limit other public interaction between children outside classroom settings.
Visit alabamapublichealth.gov/covid19 to view the current state health order and additional information or data regarding COVID-19 in Alabama.
Health officials have consistently and strongly recommended the influenza vaccine for anyone who is eligible to receive one. To that end, the Limestone County Health Department is hosting a drive-thru flu shot clinic from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday at the Athens Sportsplex on U.S. 31.
The flu shot is free for those with a Medicaid, Medicare Part B or Blue Cross-Blue Shield insurance card. For everyone else, there will be a $2 charge.
Call 256-232-3200 for more information.