FLORENCE — City officials issued pleas during Tuesday's council meeting for the public to follow the state requirement to wear masks in public and socially distance in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.
George Grabryan, director of the Lauderdale County Emergency Management Agency, told council members that there have been 798 cases of COVID-19 in Lauderdale County as of Tuesday. That includes 293 cases in the last two weeks.
He cited figures from the Alabama Department of Public Health. Those figures also show Colbert County has had 785 cases, including 347 in the last 14 days, Grabryan said.
"The amount of cases in the last 14 days is what I'm worried about," he said.
Health officials attribute the high number of cases over the past couple of weeks to Fourth of July gatherings, a lack of social distancing and lack of masks, Grabryan said.
"Another thing the health department is pointing to is when people have been tested, they're not quarantining at home while waiting for the results," he said.
Last week, Gov. Kay Ivey issued a mandatory mask ordinance for public spaces.
The virus has killed eight people in Lauderdale County and nine in Colbert County, according to data from the health department.
City Councilwoman Kaytrina Simmons knows about the virus' impact all too well.
"Please take it seriously," Simmons said. "Just last Friday we buried my aunt due to COVID."
Councilman David Bradley said some people are impacted and others are not, but everyone should want to do their part.
"It's going to seriously affect enough people that we should take it seriously," Bradley said.
Councilwoman Michelle Eubanks said Grabryan's message was "very clear."
"Social distancing and mask wearing will be the only things that will help this pandemic abate," Eubanks said. "We have children who need to get back in school, and we have lives we need to live, so if we all do do this together we have a greater chance of doing that."
Mayor Steve Holt said 8.1% of Lauderdale County's COVID tests are positive. The county had been doing relatively well, he said, but numbers have risen over the past couple of weeks.
Holt urged residents to follow state guidelines, adding it is important to use common sense if you have to go somewhere.
"My repeated plea has been: If you're going shopping, go alone," he said. "Don't take the whole family. It just increases the chances of people getting infected."