Face mask required

A “Face mask required” sign is seen Friday evening outside Cullman Primary Care.

By the time this article publishes, Cullman County will have likely surpassed 1,000 reported cases of COVID-19. An update from Cullman Regional on Tuesday afternoon reflected 999 total cases reported countywide since the Centers for Disease Control began counting earlier this spring, with a total of 12 reported local deaths.

In the past two weeks alone, the hospital has documented 294 cases of the illness caused by the coronavirus. As of Tuesday, the hospital reported that five COVID-19 patients were currently being treated at the hospital with ventilators.

At the regular meeting of the Cullman County Commission earlier in the day, Cullman Emergency Management Agency director Phyllis Little updated county government on the current figures, which by the end of the day already had inched slightly higher.

Little noted, though, that the seven-day average of new cases had declined over the past week, crediting Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s mandatory amended “Safer at Home” mask order from July 15. “Apparently, maybe the masks are working,” she said. “We encourage everybody to wear masks when they’re out in public, and to comply with the governor’s order.”

Ivey is expected to announce this week whether she will extend the face covering mandate and other health orders that are set to expire Friday. The current mandate requires anyone older than 6 to wear a mask when in public and within 6 feet of someone who’s not a relative.

The current face covering mandate, which makes exceptions for people who have certain medical conditions, are exercising, or performing certain types of jobs, is set to expire before most public schools reopen. State Health Officer Scott Harris said previously that it would take two, but preferably three weeks, to judge if the mandate was making a difference in transmission.

Cullman Regional reported that the majority of new COVID-19 cases seem to be attributable to “general community spread,” a finding that emphasizes, in the hospital’s view, the need to wear a mask whenever maintaining a 6-foot public distance is not possible, to “practice safe social distancing recommendations, practice good hand hygiene, and…to stay home in order to avoid infecting others” for anyone who is sick.

The 12 reported deaths in Cullman County represent two local cases that had not yet been reflected in the Alabama Department of Public Health’s daily numbers Tuesday night. The hospital said in a statement Tuesday afternoon that the discrepancy stems from an internal reporting error, now corrected, that dates from before this week.

The hospital maintains a COVID-19 self-checking tool at the Cullman Regional website, which can be accessed by visiting https://bit.ly/2yNR17g online, or by visiting cullmanregional.com and clicking the heart icon in the bottom right corner of the screen.

Cullman Regional also operates a COVID-19 Information Line, which is available from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. seven days a week. Contact the line with questions or concerns about the illness at 256-735-5530.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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