MONTGOMERY — State Health Officer Scott Harris said at a news conference on Monday that the ages of the 197 Alabama residents infected by the corona virus ranged from 2 to 97, and that about 6% to 7% of the cases had required the person to be hospitalized.
Harris said testing continues to be a concern in Alabama. He said the state now has 17 screening sites in addition to those set up by private labs.
“One of our continuing problems is locating specimen collection kits," Harris said. "These are being sought by every state in the country.”
Because of that, he cautioned people to remember that “we do not need to test you if you do not have symptoms.”
The state has established a hotline, 1-800-270-7268, and an email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, for questions about testing availability and other issues related to the outbreak.
The state has closed all K-12 schools through April 5. Health officials have issued orders prohibiting on-site restaurant dining and non-work gatherings of more than 25 people that cannot maintain a consistent 6-foot (2-meter) distance between people.
He said it is possible that those restrictions may continue past April 5, but it is too soon to tell.
“We are asking people to make a tremendous sacrifice. ... For people who aren’t able to work right now — people in the food service industry for example— those people are really hurting, and we get that. We want them to get back to their normal lives as soon as we possibly can,” Harris said.
Health officials in Jefferson County, which has the highest number of cases, ordered the closure of nonessential businesses, including hair salons and many retail stores in a bid to stem the outbreak.
The virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover.