(Above) Stimpson: According to data released by Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson’s office this week, the seven-day average of new daily cases in Mobile County has dropped from 120 to 55 since a statewide face-covering order went into effect in mid-July. (Courtesy of city of Mobile)
MCHD: According to the Mobile County Health Department, the percentage of COVID-19 tests producing positive results dropped from 22 percent in mid-July to nearly 16 percent in the first week of August. (Courtesy of MCHD)
After a significant increase in COVID-19 cases last month, local officials say Mobile County’s numbers appear to be on a downward trend after several weeks of state and local face-covering requirements.
Addressing the Mobile City Council Tuesday, Mayor Sandy Stimpson discussed declines in new COVID-19 cases and the percentage of tests that have produced positive results over the past two weeks, and attributed both to face-covering orders adopted by the city and the state in July.
“The masking ordinance was done about four weeks ago, and a couple of weeks after that we really started seeing the impact. Now that trend is really going in the right direction,” Stimpson told council members. “I’m tremendously grateful for everyone who has embraced wearing a mask. I know it’s an inconvenience, but it does look like we’ve got some solid evidence that it makes a difference.”
According to data released by Stimpson’s office, the seven-day average of new daily cases Aug. 8 was roughly 55 — a significant drop from the 120 average daily cases that were reported when Gov. Kay Ivey issued a face-covering requirement as part of an amended “Safer at Home” order July 15.
Data released by the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) has differed slightly due to recent “aberrations” in reporting from private laboratories. During the same period of time, those issues have caused the average number of daily cases reported by ADPH to hover around 200.
Dr. Rendi Murphree, an epidemiologist with the Mobile County Health Department (MCHD), said during a press conference Monday as private labs have come online and begun reporting COVID-19 test results electronically, a few delays have led to backlogs of positive cases that had to be checked manually.
For instance, an MCHD report this week indicated a staggering 562 new cases of COVID-19 were reported Sunday, Aug. 9. That appears to shatter Mobile County’s previous record for daily cases several times over, but Murphree said the majority of those results are from tests conducted earlier in July that were not submitted to state public health officials for processing until last weekend.
“These kinds of things influence labs’ reporting, but really don’t have much to do with the way transmission is occurring in our community,” Murphree said. “We’re glad to be able to report that’s an artificially high number because of a new lab coming on board and trying to catch up.”
When adjusted for those reporting anomalies, Murphree said the trends of transmission in Mobile County appear to be “encouraging.” She also noted the percentage of tests producing positive results dropped from 22 percent in mid-July to nearly 16 percent through the first week of August.
The number of daily hospitalizations reported locally appears to have hit a peak at 228 July 31. It has since been on the decline, though there was with a slight uptick at the beginning of this week that indicated as many as 185 people were being treated for COVID-19 in local hospitals as of Aug. 11.
There were also seven deaths in Mobile County attributed to COVID-19 between Aug. 10 and Aug. 11, though that doesn’t necessarily mean all of those patients died during that 24-hour period. It’s also worth noting hospitalization and death trends tend to lag behind reports of COVID-19 cases, and public officials believe, if that holds true, both should mirror the recent downturn in cases in the coming weeks.
“There is definitely a little bit of good news,” Murphree said. “But again, we want everybody to continue to comply with our public health messages regarding face coverings, social distancing and hand washing so that we can try to keep these trends headed in the right direction.”
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