An elderly woman in Athens has been reported as the first death in Limestone County related to the novel coronavirus.

Health officials have not released any identifying information about the woman, though Athens-Limestone Hospital did confirm the woman was a patient who had been admitted a few days prior to her death. The novel coronavirus is known to more severely affect elderly and immunocompromised individuals.

According to data released Tuesday by the Alabama Department of Public Health, she is the only confirmed or probable death in Limestone County. The county, like much of the nation recently, has seen a recent spike in COVID-19 cases, with 43% of the county's cumulative total testing positive in the last two weeks.

However, state and local health officials say their concern is not just the number of cases rising, but the number of tests that come back positive. Of those tested in Limestone County over the last two weeks, 11.9% have tested positive.

Only four other counties in North Alabama have a higher positive test rate, and none of Limestone's neighboring counties do. Statewide, the positive test rate is 10.6% as of Tuesday, according to ADPH.

"Too many people are failing to take precautions and follow the simple steps that have been proven to prevent transmission of the virus," Dr. Scott Harris, state health officer, said in a statement. "As Alabama is experiencing increased numbers of cases and, regrettably, more deaths, now is not the time to let your guard down."

For most people, COVID-19 causes mild to moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, though it can be passed by people with no symptoms at all and cause severe symptoms or death. To reduce the spread of the virus, individuals are encouraged to follow health guidelines, including practicing social distancing, washing their hands and wearing a face mask in public settings.

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