Dr. Karen Landers said she isn't surprised to see a spike in COVID-19 cases over the last week after local cases had been remaining fairly steady.
Colbert and Lauderdale counties have more than 100 COVID-19 cases, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. On April 27, there were 47 total cases in the counties.
"We had some epidemiology that indicated the need for additional testing, so it didn't surprise me," said Landers, area officer for the health department.
In addition, Franklin County, which has a smaller population than either Colbert or Lauderdale, has more cases than those two counties combined at 133, according to the health department.
Thus far, there have been 1,760 tests in Lauderdale, 1,032 in Colbert, and 758 in Franklin, according to the department.
Epidemiology involves studying the determining factors that could affect someone's health. For example, in the case of COVID-19, the chances of having the disease are greater for family members living with or co-workers who work closely alongside someone who has contracted the disease.
"Either in a household or a work setting, if you have a person who tested positive, and then see others who are symptomatic, you test them too," Landers said. "We're doing more testing, and as you do more testing you can expect to see more cases. We have had situations where an individual entity had more cases.
"Once you have a case and you're doing an investigation, your epidemiology may point you to more testing."
She said it takes 24 to 72 hours to receive results from tests taken by the health department. The timeline varies for commercial labs.
Landers said it is important that those who are tested isolate themselves while awaiting results.
According to 2019 U.S. Census Bureau estimates, the 2019 population was 92,729 in Lauderdale County, 55,241 in Colbert County, and 31,362 in Franklin County, yet Franklin County's numbers are the highest in all of northwest Alabama.
"In Franklin County, we had a couple of entities that had some cases, and as a result of that we increased the epidemiology, and also had additional community outreach as a result," Landers said.
She said it is essential that the public continues to observe measures such as social distancing, hand washing and avoiding gatherings of 10 or more people.
"I want to remind people to follow the 'Safer at Home Order,' and as you're going out, take safety measures," Landers said. "We still have to continue to follow these measures to keep these cases down."