With Walker County's first case of coronavirus, or COVID-19, confirmed in Walker County, local residents are left to call a 24/7 toll-free state hotline number - 1-888-264-2256 - to find out where they can get their own testing.
The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) on Thursday released an updated number of 68 cases statewide, including one in Walker County. The Walker County Health Department referred comment to Tommy Dockery, the director of emergency preparedness for the West Central District of ADPH in Tuscaloosa, who is also serving as a public information officer. He said further information on the Walker County case and its location could not be released.
When the first Madison County case was announced Tuesday in a press released, the department stated in a release, "ADPH is committed to sharing up-to-date information and will maintain patient privacy when announcing confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Alabama residents. The department posts the latest updates on alabamapublichealth.gov, including county-level numbers of COVID-19 cases."
As of Thursday morning, a total of 32 cases are in Jefferson County, while Tuscaloosa also had four cases, according to the state in a release.
The state release said for testing on coronavirus, or COVID-19, one should call the 24/7 state hotline number for information.
Asked Thursday morning where people can be tested in Walker County, Dockery could only refer to the hotline number.
"They are changing so rapidly, and at different hours," he said.
He also referred to the department website, www.alabamapublichealth.gov. However, he said the website is basically just listing the phone number. It was not shown on the home page Thursday morning, but mentioned in the coronavirus section linked on the front page.
Dockery said if a testing site was listed on the website or elsewhere, the tests might run out by mid-morning.
He said when one calls the hotline number, the caller will have to give a zip code number. "Then they will send you to the closest site," he said.
Dockery said he thinks one reason information is changing so rapidly "is getting the test kits in. They can only get so many per time, and you are doing this all over the nation. You've got to think about that. It is according to how many kits they get and when they run out. They they would have to shut down."
He gave this scenario as an example: "They say they are going to be open from 8 to 5, and then they are out at 10 o'clock in the morning, and they shut down at 10. And it was listed they were open until 5 - but they are not. Do you see what I mean?"
Testing kits are making it to the sites announced for testing, he said, noting the sites are a combination of medical sites, even drive-through clinics throughout the state.
Information on COVID-19:
The following general information was passed along by the department Tuesday in a release when the Madison County case was announced:
"Most patients with COVID-19 infection have mild respiratory illness along with fever, cough and shortness of breath. Some have more severe symptoms that require hospitalization. Health officials urge anyone experiencing symptoms to first notify their healthcare provider so that proper precautions can be taken. This will help protect others from exposure to COVID-19 and other viruses.
"Social distancing is the most important recommendation to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It is recommended that any gatherings that cannot maintain a consistent six-foot distance between persons be postponed or canceled. As with other respiratory illnesses, it is important that everyone continue to take steps to protect themselves and others by minimizing their risks. This includes practicing good hand hygiene, avoiding close contact with sick persons, staying home when sick, covering coughs and sneezes, and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.
"Persons who are 65 years and older and those with health conditions including heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, and other conditions that can weaken the immune system should limit their interactions with others since they are most at risk.
"ADPH is committed to sharing up-to-date information and will maintain patient privacy when announcing confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Alabama residents. The department posts the latest updates on alabamapublichealth.gov, including county-level numbers of COVID-19 cases."
More information is available by clicking “Coronavirus” on the home page of alabamapublichealth.gov/ and at the CDC at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.