COVID-19 numbers have been trending well for Lee County recently, even as Montgomery and other areas around the state have had infection rates spike.

“On our COVID-19 census graph today (Thursday), you will notice there are no pending cases. That will mostly become the norm going forward as we transition to a quicker testing process. We will have more information on this improvement next Tuesday,” said John Atkinson, spokesman for East Alabama Medical Center, in an email to the Opelika-Auburn News.

The drop in cases has emboldened Auburn and Opelika officials to reopen public spaces, indoors and out. Each city’s parks and recreation offices are slowly reactivating summer programming, and schools will be allowed to resume athletics and other extracurricular activities in June.

It’s so bad in Montgomery that the state capital has run out of Intensive Care beds at its hospitals to treat the sick. What are the odds of that Montgomery outbreak migrating northeast 50 miles up Interstate 85 and undoing the recent progress around Lee County?

“Montgomery is definitely seeing a large number of cases right now, just as we did 6-8 weeks ago. While our number of hospitalizations at EAMC are much lower now, we have to realize that we still have COVID-19 in our own community — no need for it to come here from Montgomery.

“We fully expect to see increases in cases from time to time, but believe that the peak we saw in early April will not be surpassed if our community continues to be mindful of the measures taken to slow the spread. However, if we relax and think that we no longer need to social distance, wear masks and practice good hand hygiene, we could return to the situation we were in before,” Atkinson added.

EAMC has taken in one COVID-19 patient from Montgomery thus far, while that city deals with the aforementioned shortage of beds. Atkinson noted that neighboring hospitals extended that same help in the aftermath of the March 2019 tornadoes that killed 23 Lee County residents.

“As a rule, hospitals stand ready to help other hospitals in such situations and we are happy to help if we can,” Atkinson noted.

Improved testing capabilities have helped locally, and calls to the 528-SICK call center have decreased each of the past three weeks, and therefore, so have the number of tests, he said.

“However, as I mentioned earlier, we still have COVID-19 in our community and people should not hesitate to contact the call center if they have symptoms associated with the virus,” Atkinson said.

Some symptoms include, but are not limited to, fever, dry cough, difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, muscle aches, unexplained fatigue, and new loss of taste and/or smell.

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