Alabama at 28 virus cases; calls to avoid large gatherings

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Alabama Department of Public Health on Monday urged people to avoid gatherings of more than 50 people, unless they can maintain a 6-foot distance between others, to limit spread of the new coronavirus. 
 
The advice follows guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, State Health Officer Scott Harris said.
 
Harris said restaurants are urged to keep a 6-foot (2-meter) distance between tables and limit admittance to 50 percent of capacity. Harris said people attending weddings and funerals should also try to maintain 6-foot (2-meter) distance. He said workplaces may not be able to maintain the distances but should try whenever possible.
 
 Senior citizens, and those with health problems, should be more careful, Harris said. Senior adults or those with chronic health problems should avoid gatherings, outside of close family, of 10 or more people, and should avoid travel by air, train or bus, the state health department said.
 
"I think if we all cooperate, if we all manage to do this then we will have a little bit of time where we are inconvenienced and uncomfortable but I know we will come out OK on the other side," Harris said.
 
Alabama now has 28 confirmed virus cases as of Monday, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. Seventeen of the cases were found in Jefferson County. Harris said that is not surprising that Jefferson County has the highest reported number because that is the state's largest county and also has more testing sites.
 
Hospitals in Montgomery and Tuscaloosa announced the opening of new testing sites. 
 
Harris said there is no reason for a person to seek a test unless they have symptoms.
 
"I do want to remind Alabamians that you absolutely do have the power to protect yourself and protect your family. The normal social distancing items that we've been mentioning for several weeks now are what you can do," Harris said.
 
East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika announced that a hospital employee had tested positive for that virus and was being quarantined at home. The employee had not traveled outside Lee County. 
 
Hospital spokesman John Atkinson said the facility has canceled most elective procedures and is taking "all extra precautions" to stop the virus.
 
"In addition, we have implemented a plan to perform deep cleaning in all patient care areas," Atkinson said in a statement.
 
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Sunday said state employees should be begin working from home when possible and told department heads to adopt flexible work schedules. Other employees may be placed on paid emergency leave.
 
Employees should plan to return to regular work schedules on April 6, Ivey said Sunday on Twitter.
 
For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
 
The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. People with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover, according to the World Health Organization.
 
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Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.