Frequently Asked Questions

This page provides answers to your most-asked questions about the COVID-19 outbreak. For frequently asked questions and to check your symptoms, visit Alabama.gov COVID-19 Information Hub at covid19.alabama.gov.

Use a desktop computer to search for a specific question. Using Windows, hold down "CTRL" and press the "F" key. On a Mac, hold down "Command" and press "F." A search bar will appear.

If you have further questions once you have reviewed the questions and answers on this page, please call 1-800-270-7268 or email covid19info@adph.state.al.us. Telephone calls are answered from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Interpreters are available.

December 9 Update

Alabama is currently under an amended Safer at Home Order (Spanish version) effective December 11 at 5 p.m. Also see: Governor Ivey Issues Amended Safer at Home Order.

In cooperation with the Office of the Governor, ADPH has created these info sheets related to the amended Safer at Home Orders:

In cooperation with Governor Kay Ivey's Office, we created these Safer at Home flyers: What's New? What is Staying the Same? and Frequently Asked Questions About Beaches related to the previous emergency order which went into effect April 30 at 5:00 p.m.

Tables of Contents

General

Q: What is coronavirus?

A: Human coronaviruses were first identified in the mid-1960s. Seven sub-groups are known to infect people, including several that cause the common cold. MERS-CoV (which causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), SARS-CoV (which causes severe acute respiratory syndrome), and the 2019 novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) infect animals and have evolved to make people sick.

Q: What is COVID-19?

A: COVID-19 is a disease caused by a respiratory virus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in December 2019. COVID-19 a new virus that hasn’t caused illness in humans before. Worldwide, COVID-19 has resulted in thousands of human infections, causing illness and in some cases death. Cases have spread to countries throughout the world, with more cases reported daily.

Q: What are the symptoms?

A: Most people will have mild effects from the virus, but it can cause severe illness and pneumonia in others. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

This list does not include all possible symptoms. For the most up to date list of symptoms, please visit CDC Symptoms of Coronavirus.

Q: When should I seek medical attention?

A: If you develop any of these emergency warning signs for the disease, you should seek medical attention immediately:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Bluish lips or face

This list is not all inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.

Call 911 if you have a medical emergency. Notify the operator that you have or think you might have COVID-19. If possible, put on a mask or cloth face covering before medical help arrives.

Q: What should you do if you have symptoms?

A: If you have symptoms, please stay home! If the symptoms require medical attention, seek a healthcare provider. If you have been in direct contact with someone who has been confirmed with the COVID-19 virus and you develop symptoms, notify your healthcare provider. Supply them with information regarding your symptoms and that you have had contact with a confirmed case. Do not go to your healthcare provider or an emergency room without contacting your provider or the emergency room first so they may take precautions to protect you and others. If possible, wear a mask or cloth face covering while around others.

Q: I tested positive 2 weeks ago, was feeling better but now my symptoms are worsening, is this normal? What should I do?

A: It is not unusual for symptoms to worsen the second or third week after improving or going away.

If you develop any of these emergency warning signs for the disease, you should seek medical attention immediately:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Bluish lips or face

Call 911 if you have a medical emergency. Notify the operator that you have or think you might have COVID-19. If possible, put on a mask or cloth face covering before medical help arrives.

Q: Who is at risk?

Any person can contract the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). However, certain populations are more at risk such as:

  • People who are close contacts of someone known to have COVID-19, for example healthcare workers, or household members.
  • Persons over 65 years of age
  • People of any age with certain underlying medical conditions (heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, HIV, any condition that affects the immune system, persons with body mass index over 30, persons with liver disease, persons who live in long term care).
  • Children who are medically complex, who have neurologic, genetic, metabolic conditions, or who have congenital heart disease are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 than other children.

Learn more about higher and other risk populations and what you can do from the CDC.

Q: Is there a vaccine?

A: Two vaccines have been authorized for emergency use by U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA)For more information on vaccine plans and availability in Alabama, visit COVID-19 Vaccine.

Q: What are the treatments?

There are no specific outpatient treatments for COVID-19, the illness caused by SARS-CoV-2 at this time. There is ongoing medical research regarding treatment of SARS-CoV-2 and some inpatient treatments for severely ill patients have been helpful. Although most people will recover on their own, you can do some things to help relieve your symptoms, including:

  • Take medications to relieve pain and fever
  • Continue your regular medicines prescribed by your doctor unless instructed otherwise
  • Use a room humidifier or take a hot shower to help ease a sore throat and cough
  • If you are mildly sick, drink plenty of fluids, stay home, and get plenty of rest

Q: How is COVID-19 transmitted?

A: COVID-19 illness is spread mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets (mucous from the nose and throat) when a person who has COVID-19 illness coughs or sneezes and another person comes into contact with the infectious droplets. This is how the flu and many other respiratory illnesses spread. Respiratory droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be breathed into the lungs. Spread of the virus is more likely when people are at a close distance, such as within about 6 feet. Some information has been reported that the virus that causes COVID-19 is in the fecal matter (bowel movements) of infected patients. While CDC does not report this as a clearly understood way the virus is transmitted, it remains important to wash your hands after using the restroom. In some environments, the virus that causes COVID-19 can survive on surfaces, so regular sanitation of shared surfaces is important.

Q: Can a person spread the infection if they don’t feel sick?

A: People are thought to be most contagious (able to spread the virus) when they are symptomatic (the sickest). That is why CDC recommends that these patients be isolated either in the hospital or at home (depending on how sick they are) until they are better and no longer pose a risk of infecting others. More recently, the virus has also been found in persons who do not have symptoms. This is why social distancing, good respiratory hygiene, including good hand washing, and staying at home unless you have to go out for food, supplies, or essential work, are important ways to reduce the spread of this virus.

Q: How long can a person spread COVID-19?

A: At this time, it appears that persons can shed SARSCoV 2 virus about 2 days before becoming ill and up to 8 days after symptoms onset. CDC has recently changed the home isolation for known cases of COVID 19 due to this updated information. It is now known that persons can be asymptomatic with COVID 19. So, it is important that persons continue measures including social distancing, respiratory hygiene, and the use of cloth face coverings in persons 2 years of age and older to reduce the spread of this virus. health officials do not know when someone with COVID-19 becomes contagious.

Q: If you've already had COVID-19, can you get it again? Do you still need to wear a mask and practice social distancing?

A: Due to the SARSCoV 2 being a novel (new) virus, there is not clear scientific evidence concerning the body's ability to develop long term immunity. So, even if a person has had COVID 19 and has recovered, the person should still maintain social distancing, follow good hand washing or hand sanitizing practices, and wear a cloth face covering when in public.

Q: If I've already had COVID-19 do I still need to wear a mask?

A: Since the science behind COVID-19 is still emerging, persons who have recovered from COVID-19 should still wear masks, practice respiratory hygiene, including good hand washing, and social distance. Currently, any immunity from COVID-19 disease appears to be limited, and it may be possible for persons to become reinfected within a few to several months after their initial illness.

Q: How can I be more prepared for COVID-19?

A: Have an adequate supply of nonprescription drugs and other health supplies on hand, including pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines. Check your regular prescription drugs to make sure you have an adequate supply; refill your prescriptions if needed. Have a thermometer, tissues and hand sanitizer in case you become ill and must stay at home to recover. Talk with family members and loved ones about how they would be cared for if they got sick and what will be needed to care for them at home. Have a two-week supply of water and food available at home.

Q: Should I wear a face mask when I go out in public?

A: On July 15, 2020, a Statewide Mask Requirement was issued You have to wear a mask when you are in public and in close contact with other people. Mask Requirement Frequently Asked Questions.

N95 and surgical masks should be used by healthcare workers and first responders, as they are the persons who need this high level of protection in their work. The CDC recommends the use of cloth face coverings in community settings (for example, grocery stores and pharmacies) where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

There continues to be more information that people who are infected can spread the virus before they develop symptoms or when they do not have symptoms. Wearing a cloth face covering may help prevent the spread of the virus by people are infected and do not know it.

If you do not have access to a mask, you can make your own: Do-It-Yourself Cloth Face Covering Instructions.

Q: What about face covers for those who are hearing impaired and rely on reading lips to communicate?

A: The National Association of the deaf offers suggestions to aid communication for the deaf or hard of hearing. Some alternatives for persons with hearing loss include using print-outs, a dry-erase board, or pen and paper to communicate; apps like Google LiveTranscribe; or FaceTime/video calls where you ask the doctor to go to their office where they can safely remove their mask and talk with you via videophone, or have them text/email.

Q: Can I use a face shield instead of a mask?

A: The use of a face shield complies as long as it covers the nostrils and mouth. The shield must extend just past the chin in order to fully cover the mouth. They should wrap around the sides of the wearer's face. Disposable face shields should only be worn for a single use. Reusuable face shields should be cleaned and disinfected after each use. Face coverings of any kind, including face shields, are not recommended for children younger than two years of age.

Q: What are some things I can do to protect myself when grocery shopping?

A: The Alabama Department of Public Health recommends the following: make a list before you go, only send one person to the store, wipe down the shopping cart, wear a cloth face covering, use hand sanitizer, and leave space between you and the other shoppers. Do not shop if you are sick. Choose online ordering if it is available. You can find these tips and more on our Smart Shopping flyer, available in English and Spanish.

Q: If someone has COVID-19, what will happen to them?

A: The vast majority of people recover from this infection. Most people will have mild or moderate symptoms. Some people may be advised to recover at home and isolate themselves from others. These individuals should call their physicians or healthcare practitioners if their symptoms get worse. Some COVID-19 infections can lead to serious illness, and in some cases, death. If someone has a more serious illness from COVID-19, they may be admitted to the hospital. Older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions have a greater risk for serious illness. Examples of pre-existing medical conditions are: heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, HIV, any condition that affects the immune system, persons with body mass index over 40, persons with liver disease. Persons who live in long term care are also at greater risk for serious illness due to age and preexisting medical conditions.

Q: What type of cleaning and disinfecting products should I use?

A: Clean frequently touched surfaces and objects daily (e.g., tables, countertops, light switches, doorknobs, and cabinet handles) with regular household detergent and water. Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved products with emerging viral pathogens.

Q: I’m a patient at a hospital. Am I at risk for COVID-19 from other patients?

A: We recommend people with suspected COVID-19 cases be in their own room in a healthcare setting. Healthcare workers are trained to remove their personal protective equipment (PPE) and wash their hands after seeing a patient, so the infection doesn’t leave the room.

Q: Should I be concerned about getting COVID-19 from products or packages shipping from China or other parts of the world?

A: There is ongoing research about how long the virus that causes COVID-19 can live on surfaces such as cardboard, plastic, stainless steel, and copper. There is still no indication that COVID-19 illness can be contracted from mail or packages. Spread is still considered to be most likely person to person. However, to provide an extra measure of sanitization, you can wipe off packages with disinfectants before you bring them in your house. You should still wash your hands after opening/handling packages. It is also important to continue to clean high touch surfaces such as counters, light switches, and door knobs regularly.

Q: Should I be concerned about my pets or other animals and COVID-19?

A: If you are sick with COVID-19 (either suspected or confirmed), you should restrict contact with pets and other animals, just like you would around other people. Although there have been no reports of pets becoming sick with COVID-19 in the United States, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus. This can help ensure both you and your animals stay healthy.

  • When possible, have another member of your household care for your animals while you are sick.
  • Avoid contact with your pet including, petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food.
  • If you must care for your pet or be around animals while you are sick, wash your hands before and after you interact with them.

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For Patients

Q: What if I don’t have insurance?

A: Call 1-800-270-7268 and ask for free or low-cost testing in your area. Telephone calls are answered from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Interpreters are available.

Q: Why will my doctor not test me for COVID-19?

A: Physicians and healthcare providers remain the best source of medical guidance for your family and you. Your healthcare professional may determine, based upon his/her clinical judgement, that you do not have COVID-19 and have another diagnosis.

Q: Is there any information available on pregnancy and COVID-19?

A: The Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) has released guidance on the maternal, fetal and neonatal implications of the disease. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has guidance as well.

Q: Can I utilize telehealth services for COVID-19?

A: Telehealth can be a resource for screening and diagnosis for physicians and NPs during the COVID-19 response. Check with your provider, and they can advise you about coverage for Telehealth.

 

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For Specific Audiences

Q: Does ADPH have a contact tracing or exposure notification app available to the public?

A: The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), in cooperation with the University of Alabama at Birmingham and MotionMobs, using technology from a collaboration between Apple and Google, developed an exposure notification app called GuideSafe™. The GuideSafe™ Exposure Notification App allows you to anonymously share a positive COVID-19 test result – and be anonymously notified of possible previous close contact with someone who later reports a positive COVID-19 test result – without sharing anyone’s identity. The app protects your privacy while giving you the power to protect the health of yourself, your family, and your community. Learn more at GuideSafe.org.

Q: I would like to help with the response effort. How do I volunteer?

A: Visit our Volunteer Opportunities page to learn how you can help.

Q: Can I travel to any city within the U.S.? What are the restrictions?

A: The CDC Travel Planner allows you to enter a city, zip code, or address to learn more about COVID-19 travel restrictions, guidance, and resources in your destination.

Q: Can I travel outside the United States? What are the restrictions?

A: The CDC provides Travel Health Notices where you can search by country and Travel Recommendations by Destination.

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For Healthcare Providers

Q: When is someone infectious?

A: The onset and duration of viral shedding and period of infectiousness for COVID-19 appears to be about 2 days before onset of illness and up to 8 days after symptom onset. It is possible that SARS-CoV-2 RNA may be detectable in the upper or lower respiratory tract for weeks after illness onset, similar to infection with MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV. However, detection of viral RNA does not necessarily mean that infectious virus is present. CDC recently updated information on their website concerning home isolation periods for persons symptomatic with COVID 19 due to better understanding of viral shedding. Existing literature regarding SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses (e.g. MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV) suggest that the incubation period may range from 2-14 days.

Q: Can people who recover from COVID-19 be infected again?

A: The immune response to COVID-19 is not yet understood. Patients with SARSCoV 2 infection are unlikely to be re-infected shortly after they recover, but the duration of protection from natural disease is still being studied.

Q: Are pregnant healthcare personnel at increased risk for adverse outcomes if they care for patients with COVID-19?

A: Pregnant healthcare personnel (HCP) should follow risk assessment and infection control guidelines for HCP exposed to patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. Adherence to recommended infection prevention and control practices is an important part of protecting all HCP in healthcare settings. Information on COVID-19 in pregnancy is very limited; facilities may want to consider limiting exposure of pregnant HCP to patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, especially during higher risk procedures (e.g., aerosol-generating procedures) if feasible based on staffing availability. Visit the CDC's Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: Information about COVID-19.

Q: Are there guidelines on COVID-19 in place for dental professionals?

A: Visit our Office of Oral Health to see the Dental Protocol for Return to Practice in Response to COVID-19 Mandates and other news related to COVID-19 for dental professionals.

Q: How many ventilators does every hospital in Alabama have?

A: There are approximately 100 hospitals in Alabama. We are unable to provide specific numbers of ventilators for each facility. Ventilators are being transferred between facilities so the number any specific facility has on hand at any one time may be fluid.

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Testing

Q: How do I find a testing site for testing of COVID-19?

A: Our COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard and COVID-19 Table provides a list of specimen collection sites. These facilities have reported to the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) that they are collecting specimens for COVID-19. This lists and dashboard map may not reflect all collection sites in Alabama. Call the testing site for additional information before visiting. You can also call 1-800-270-7268 and ask for testing in your area. Telephone calls are answered Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Interpreters are available. Note: There is no medical advice provided at this telephone number.

Q: How much is a test for COVID-19 if I don't have insurance?

Testing through the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) lab is free, but healthcare providers may charge to collect the specimen from you. Call the testing site for additional information before visiting. You can also call 1-800-270-7268 and ask for testing in your area. Telephone calls are answered Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Interpreters are available. Note: There is no medical advice provided at this telephone number.

Q: What is the current testing criteria for COVID-19?

A: As commercial labs have continued to increase their capacity for testing for the virus causing COVID-19 disease, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) Bureau of Clinical Laboratories (BCL) has refocused its testing efforts toward persons at highest risk for COVID-19 disease and potential adverse outcomes or concerns about infection control (healthcare or long term care workers) which is consistent with federal guidelines. If patients do not meet ADPH criteria and their physician wishes for them to be tested, they should be tested through a commercial laboratory.

ADPH BCL asks that specimens submitted to the state lab follow the criteria below:

The patient is a resident (includes symptomatic and asymptomatic) of a long-term care facility and the facility has laboratory-confirmed cases in residents or staff, or are

  • Hospitalized patients with symptoms
  • Healthcare facility workers, workers in congregate living settings, and first responders with symptoms
  • Residents in long-term care facilities or other congregate living settings, including correctional and detention facilities and shelters, with symptoms
  • Persons without symptoms who have underlying medical conditions or disability placing them at a higher risk of complications, residency in a congregate housing setting such as a homeless shelter or long-term care facility, or screening of other asymptomatic individuals based on a case-by-case review and approval by the state health department or local health jurisdiction.

Providers may order testing for persons not meeting the above criteria but are asked to use a commercial or clinical laboratory with which they have an agreement.

Q: What is the process of getting my results?

A: If your specimen goes to the ADPH lab for testing, when the tests are completed, the results will be sent to your physician and to ADPH. If your test is done in the ADPH lab, your doctor or healthcare provider can look up your test results on our lab electronic result site. If your test is positive, a health department COVID-19 Investigation Team member will call the physician to notify him/her of the results and ask that they notify you as their patient. If your test is positive, a COVID-19 Investigation Team member will call you with further instructions and ask you questions.

If your specimen goes to a commercial lab (private labs who run specimens for tests for COVID-19), the commercial lab will report your test results to your doctor or healthcare provider. Commercial labs are required, by law, to report positive tests to the health department within four hours of getting the results.

Q: What if I test positive for COVID-19?

A: Any person who has tested positive for COVID-19—other than institutionalized persons—shall be quarantined to his or her place of residence for a period of time specified by the State Health Officer or his designee. Any person quarantined pursuant to this provision shall not leave his or her place of residence for any reason other than to seek necessary medical treatment. Any person requiring assistance while under quarantine may contact Alabama Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. While under quarantine, the person shall take precautions as directed by his or her health care provider or the Alabama Department of Public Health to prevent the spread of the disease to others.

Q: When people test positive, are those who have been in contact with them notified?

A: Yes. After the healthcare provider tells the patient that they have a positive result, ADPH contacts the patient to conduct an investigation called a contact interview. They find out where the person has been and who they have been in contact with. Follow-up with contacts are then made.

Q: There is a case in my county? Should I get tested?

A: Our Infectious Disease and Outbreak Team (COVID-19 Investigation Team) talks to people who have COVID-19 (cases) to find out where they have been and who they have been in contact with for a specified amount of days. They call and talk to the persons the case has been around (contact or contacts). If you are a contact, a COVID-19 Investigation Team member will call you. Otherwise please contact your healthcare provider if you have questions about being tested. If you don't have a healthcare provider or need additional info, please call 1-800-270-7268. Telephone calls are answered Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Interpreters are available.

Q: Are you receiving results from the drive-thru testing centers? How quickly are those results coming in?

A: The Alabama Department of Public Health gets results from the health department lab and commercial labs. Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) from providers and all Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-associated Coronavirus (SARS-CoV2) test results from laboratories are categorized as "Immediate, Urgent Diseases/Conditions." By law, healthcare providers and labs are to report Immediate, Urgent Diseases/Conditions to ADPH within 24 hours of presumptive diagnosis.

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Numbers Reported

Q: How often are you updating the public on case counts and deaths?

A: For cases, deaths, and total tested by county of residence, and testing sites, visit our COVID-19 Table or our COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard. The dashboard also includes hospitalizations, confirmed cases rate per 100,000 persons, case demographics, case characteristics, and death demographics, among other data.

Q: Where can I find the cities or zip codes of COVID-19 cases?

A: At this time, ADPH provides county level data on our COVID-19 Table and COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard. When providing zip code and additional information, especially in rural areas with small populations, considerations regarding patient identity and privacy have to be taken into account. Additionally, zip code data does not give a true picture of where a person may have contracted the disease since people do no remain in one zip code.

Q: If a patient with a pending test dies before their result comes back, is it captured and reported?

A: All positive and negative COVID-19 tests are required by law to be reported to the Alabama Department of Public Health, and an investigation occurs whether the person is deceased or not.

Q: Do cases have to be confirmed by the CDC?

A: For the purpose of public health action and investigation, lab tests reported as positive by the Bureau of Clinical Laboratories or other labs are considered positive. Thus, all positive tests are included in our case counts. Other labs are required by law to report positive COVID-19 tests to the Alabama Department of Public Health within four hours.

Q: What details about cases are reported by the Alabama Department of Public Health?

A: The Alabama Department of Public Health is constantly reviewing and reassessing processes including data reported and its format. We are currently providing demographic data on laboratory-confirmed cases on our Data and Surveillance page and our COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard (see tab with Demographics for Cases).

Q: Why is it that health officials will not give us more information about who is infected?

A: Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) cannot disclose patient information due to HIPAA. COVID-19 is a four-hour notifiable disease, by law, in Alabama. People who have COVID-19 (cases) are investigated by ADPH Infectious Disease and Outbreak Division (COVID-19 Investigation Team), and the case goes under home quarantine, unless hospitalized where they are also under quarantine. People who are in close contact (contacts) identified as part of the investigation are notified and placed under home quarantine as well. Places of employment or businesses are contacted as part of the investigation. Cases and contacts are not allowed to be out in public until instructed by ADPH that they may do so.

Q: I heard there is a death in my county. Why does your dashboard or table not show the death?

A: Our deepest sympathies are with families and friends who lose loved ones during this outbreak. When a death occurs in a person who tested positive for COVID-19, the record is reviewed by an Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) physician to determine factors related to death and any comorbid conditions. This investigation must be completed before any death is included in our official data. ADPH follows the guidance of the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS) and the CDC.

Q: What are the current numbers of hospitalizations, patients in ICU, and patients on ventilators in Alabama hospitals?

A: The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) reports hospitalization data daily at 3 p.m. on our COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard. This information is from the Alabama Incident Management System (AIMS). Information related to persons currently on ventilators or in ICU changes frequently as some patients are removed from ventilators or ICU in one facility while patients in other facilities are being placed on ventilators or in ICU. Since the beginning of the pandemic, a review of data indicates that about 10% of persons require ventilatory support at some time in hospitalization, as well as about 25% of persons requiring ICU support during some portion of their hospitalization. Cumulative totals for hospitalization, patients in ICU, and patients on ventilators can also be found on our COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard.

Q: What does the investigation process for a COVID-19 death look like?

A: When a death occurs in a person who tested positive for COVID-19, the record is reviewed by an ADPH physician to determine factors related to deaths and whether the death is attributable to COVID-19. An additional investigation is carried out for any infant death in Alabama, regardless of suspected cause. Thus, the process takes additional time and consultation to determine contributory factors and any measures to prevent future deaths. No details on deaths can be provided due to patient privacy and HIPAA compliance.

Q: How many people have been hospitalized with COVID-19 in Alabama?

A: Total statewide daily and cumulative hospitalizations can be found on our COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard. Our Daily Hospitalizations of COVID-19 Patients graph provides daily number of hospitalized patients with confirmed COVID-19 and number of hospitals reporting by date. Total Hospitalizations includes the cumulative total of admissions/discharges (including deaths) of confirmed COVID-19 patients and today's number of admitted patients with confirmed COVID-19. These data are provided to the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) by the Alabama Incident Management System (AIMS).

Q: How many employees are working on contact tracing and death investigations related to COVID-19?

A: The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) has at least 404 persons working in the COVID-19 investigative response, including contact tracing. Some persons working are ADPH employees from various disease control and related public health backgrounds. Other persons are from the University of Alabama Birmingham (UAB) School of Public Health. ADPH is completing a contract with an entity to add more contact tracing as contract workers. ADPH staff members conducting death reviews are experienced nurses, epidemiologists, and public health physicians with primary care backgrounds. All deaths that occur in infants are followed up with a Fetal Infant Mortality Review through ADPH.

Q: How long might a typical death investigation take in the case of a patient who died after testing positive for COVID-19?

A: Death investigation can take one hour or less once the medical records are received.

Q: Will the numbers go down the people with COVID-19 are no longer symptomatic?

A: Numbers of Confirmed Cases will continue to be counted as cases. Our COVID-19 Table and COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard will always show cumulative totals. Presumed recoveries are provided and updated on Wednesdays on our COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard.

Q: Does ADPH report the number of recovered cases?

A: Presumed recoveries are provided and updated on Wednesdays on our COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard. Cases are presumed recovered if it has been 14 days or more since the case tested positive if they were not hospitalized, or if it has been 32 days or more since the case tested positive if they were hospitalized or if hospitalization was unknown.

Q: Will cases be subtracted from the current number of cases or will it be separately reported?

A: Cases will not be subtracted as this is the data on numbers of total cases.

Q: If a college student tests positive, will ADPH report the case from where their college is located? Does the college or the lab report the positive result to ADPH?

A: The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) will follow the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) guidance for reporting notifiable disease jurisdictions which, for college students, will be the place of usual residence in an academic year such as the city/town where they attend college for most of the year.

Regarding notifiable diseases, according to Alabama law, all physicians, dentists, nurses, medical examiners, hospital administrators, nursing home administrators, lab directors, school principals, and day care directors are responsible for reporting notifiable diseases. Thus, college health services will report to the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), and ADPH will also receive results from laboratories.

Q: Does ADPH report a case when the resident lives out of state?

A: Non-residents will not be listed in our case counts. In the event we have a resident from another state test positive in our state, we notify the health department in their resident state and that state and the CDC counts the person as a case in the resident’s state. This information is from the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists. (CSTE). Total Tested provided on our COVID-19 Table and COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard includes test results from persons who were tested in Alabama but do not reside in Alabama. This is the only data provided on the Dashboard that includes persons from other states.

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Openings, Closings, and Canceling Activities

Q: How do I report a business that is not following the current state health order?

A: Violations of the health orders should be reported to local law enforcement authorities. Violators may be subject to criminal penalties for willful non-compliance with this order. See all COVID-19 emergency actions taken by state agencies on our General Counsel website.

Q: Is it safe to go to a shelter during a weather threat?

A: Decisions made to open shelters are made at the local and county level due to weather threats. The shelter and persons can take as many precautions within the shelter as possible to enhance social distancing and promote respiratory hygiene. At this time, ADPH is recommending that citizens' first priority should be to protect themselves from a potential tornado. If a warning is issued in your area, you are more likely to be affected by the tornado than the virus. Thus, people should heed tornado warnings and take appropriate shelter.

 

Q: What about non-work related gatherings under the new Safer at Home Order?

A: Under the current Safer at Home health order, all non-work related gatherings of any size that cannot maintain a consistent six-foot distance between persons from different households are prohibited. 

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Environmental and Food

Q: Can I get COVID-19 from wastewater or sewage?

A: WHO has indicated that “there is no evidence to date that COVID-19 virus has been transmitted via sewerage systems, with or without wastewater treatment.”

Q: Do wastewater treatment plants treat COVID-19?

A: Yes, wastewater treatment plants treat viruses and other pathogens. COVID-19 is a type of virus that is particularly susceptible to disinfection. Standard treatment and disinfectant processes at wastewater treatment plants are expected to be effective.

Q: Will my septic system treat COVID-19?

A: While decentralized wastewater treatment (i.e., septic tanks) do not disinfect, EPA expects a properly managed septic system to treat COVID-19 the same way it safely manages other viruses often found in wastewater. Additionally, when properly installed, a septic system is located at a distance and location designed to avoid impacting a water supply well.

Q: Should I worry about COVID-19 contamination on my food?

A: Food hasn't been identified as a likely source of COVID-19 spread at this time. However, food safety practices routinely performed at home and work can help reduce the spread of coronavirus and other respiratory viruses in our community. Even if restaurants temporarily close for in-person dining, they may continue filling take-out orders and deliveries.

When handling food, use a barrier like tongs, gloves or other utensils to prevent direct hand contact with food. To help reduce illness, wash, rinse and sanitize tongs and other utensils in self-service areas often throughout the day.

Q: Does ADPH require food establishments to inform ADPH is an employee has tested positive for COVID-19 specifically?

A: Food establishments are under no special reporting requirements as COVID-19 is not a foodborne illness, it's a respiratory illness. However, COVID-19 is a reportable disease and the Health Department is notified of all positive cases.

Q: Is ADPH required to inform the public if a food establishment worker has tested positive?

A: The Health Department only reports the county of a positive case.

Q: Is it the public's right to know if a food service worker tested positive for an infectious disease that could have been exposed to customers, employees, and the general public?

A: The State Health Officer prohibited on-premises dining on March 20, 2020 to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19. Drive-thru or curbside pick-up minimize risk of exposure. ADPH has protocols in place to investigate all positive COVID-19 cases.

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Page last updated: January 4, 2021