East Alabama Medical Center is adding new restrictions in response to a hospital employee testing positive for coronavirus COVID-19

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in east Alabama continues to rise.

Chambers County recorded its first confirmed cases Thursday morning. The first confirmed COVID-19 patient in Chambers County came to the emergency department at East Alabama Medical Center — Lanier a few days ago, the hospital announced.

The patient was screened outside and was masked before being brought inside through a separate entrance for treatment and a specimen collection, EAMC said.

“Proper infection prevention protocols were followed throughout, and the patient was discharged home and instructed to self-quarantine for 14 days,” EAMC said in a release.

Meanwhile, the confirmed cases in Lee County rose by two Thursday to a total of 10 confirmed virus cases, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.

EAMC officials expect more confirmed cases for Lee County in the coming days, adding it does not know of any possible connection between cases.

Lee County has the second-most of any county in the state. There are now 78 confirmed cases in Alabama, up from 68 this morning, according to ADPH.

EAMC’s drive-thru testing center at the former location of Health Plus Fitness Center collected 124 specimens as of 4:45 p.m. Thursday, bringing this week’s total to 364, EAMC said.

Testing will continue today at the Health Plus location by appointment only. A decision on Saturday and Sunday appointments will be made today based on available supplies, EAMC said.

EAMC also is opening another drive-thru testing center at EAMC — Lanier Friday. The center will be seeing patients, by appointment only, from 10 a.m. to noon and 1-4 p.m. ET, EAMC said.

Appointments for both locations will be made through 334-528-SICK.

That hotline had received more than 1,000 calls as of 3 p.m. Thursday in the past 24 hours, EAMC said.

The hospital continues to ask the public to donate blood if they are healthy and able.

Auburn Public LibraryThe Auburn Public Library has decided to stop patrons borrowing and returning physical items to help curb the spread of COVID-19 but plans to keep its doors open.

The new rule will go into place Thursday, the city announced in a news release.

“Additionally, the library will suspend any due dates through April 10 for items currently borrowed, allowing patrons to keep them for longer, especially if they are practicing social distancing or self- quarantine,” it said.

“In keeping with social distancing guidelines put forth by public health professionals, the library will provide empty spaces between public computers, and the library will continue to follow and expand upon existing procedures for cleaning and sanitizing the facility.”

Residents with library cards can find online resources at auburn alabama.org/library/online-resources and any residents without a card can sign up for one at books.auburnalabama.org/POLARIS/logon.aspx.

State cases

No deaths have been reported.

Jefferson County has 34 confirmed cases. Shelby County has nine confirmed cases while Elmore County and Madison County have five confirmed cases.

Tuscaloosa County has four confirmed cases. Montgomery County has three confirmed virus cases, according to the health department.

Baldwin, Calhoun, Chambers, Limestone, Mobile, St. Clair, Talladega and Walker counties each have one confirmed case.

For the latest figures, visit http:// alabamapublichealth. gov/infectiousdiseases/ 2019-coronavirus.html

ADOC employeeAn administrative employee with the Alabama Department of Corrections tested positive for COVID-19, ADOC announced Thursday afternoon.

This is the first confirmed case within the ADOC; however, there are no positive COVID-19 cases within the inmate population as of Thursday afternoon.

“The ADOC has been actively preparing for the spread of COVID-19 throughout Alabama, which allowed us to quickly put in place necessary preventive measures and protocols to best protect our staff and inmate population,” said Commissioner Jeff Dunn. “Unfortunately, no one is immune to this virus. The physical state of our facilities and our crowded inmate populations are additional challenges we are working diligently to address as we navigate the evolving COVID-19 outbreak.

“The entire department is focused on reducing the potential impact of this disease on our correctional system while maintaining critical operational, rehabilitative, health, and mental health services.”

All people within the department who have been in direct contact with the patient who tested positive are now in self-quarantine for a 14-day period. ADPH will monitor the people who are self- quarantining.

ADOC says it has the ability to test inmates within the facilities; however, testing will occur after the ADPH approves a physician’s order.

“System-wide preventative measures in place include temperature screening of all staff prior to entering the facilities, increased sanitization of facilities with CDC- recommended cleaning supplies, and the suspension of visitation, general legal visits, and work-release and work-center programs,” a release from ADOC reads. “The department is also minimizing internal transfers of inmates on a case-by-case basis.”

Stores change hoursSeveral stores announced they will be changing their hours due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Walmart stores and Neighborhood Markets are changing their hours to 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and adding a special shopping hour for shoppers who are more vulnerable to the coronavirus. Stores that open later than 7 a.m. will continue their regular starting hours, Walmart said.

Walmart stores will host an hourlong senior shopping event every Tuesday from March 24 through April 28 for customers aged 60 and older. The event will start one hour before the store opens, said Walmart.

Winn-Dixie announced it will be looking to hire people whose working hours have been affected by mandated store and restaurant closures. The grocery store also is offering seniors and high-risk customers the chance to shop from 8-9 a.m. Monday through Friday.

Winn-Dixie’s parent company, Southeastern Grocers, will be hiring throughout the Southeast.

Those interested can visit www.segrocers.com/careers.

Publix announced it is designating Tuesday and Wednesday mornings from 7-8 a.m. as senior shopping hours for customers ages 65 and over. The change will begin March 24 and will continue until further notice.

The grocery store’s pharmacy will also be open at 7 a.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays to serve the senior population.

Hannah Lester and Jordan Hill contributed to this story.

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