Alabama virus cases top 18,000

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama has topped 18,000 cases of coronavirus with nearly a third of the cases being added in the last two weeks.

As of Monday, Alabama had more than 18,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 640 deaths, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.

Nearly a third of the cases were reported in the last two weeks as the state loosened restrictions on gatherings and public places. Health officials have said the jump in cases is cases is likely because of both increased testing and increased spread of the virus.

The state last month lifted most of the restrictions that had been in place, allowing restaurants, hair salons, entertainment venues and other places to open with social distancing requirements.

A little more than 2,700 of the state’s total COVID cases are in people who live, or work in, a long-term care facility. About 2,253 are in people who work in doctor’s offices and hospitals.

Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed said last week that city may consider an ordinance to require face masks in public.

Montgomery has become an emerging hotspot for coronavirus. State Health Officer Scott Harris said last week there is evidence of community spread instead of cases being linked to a singular location such as a nursing home or an event.

The Alabama Department of Corrections reported Friday that 61 employees and contract staff members have reported testing positive for COVID-19. The prison system said 12 inmates have tested positive for COVID-19.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the highly contagious virus can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.

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Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.