Frequently Asked Questions

This page provides answers to your most-asked questions about the COVID-19 outbreak. We update this page often.

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 our COVID-19 24/7 Hotline at 1-800-270-7268 or email covid19info@adph.state.al.us. Telephone calls are answered from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Interpreters are available.

July 29 Update

Alabama is currently under an amended Safer at Home Order (Spanish version) issued July 29 went into effect July 31 at 5:00 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 or inability to arouse
  • 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 or inability to arouse
  • 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: Not currently. There is currently no vaccine to protect against COVID-19. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid exposure to the virus.

Q: What are the treatments?

There are no specific treatments for illnesses caused by human coronaviruses at this time. There is ongoing medical research regarding treatment of SARS-CoV-2. 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
  • 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: The first case of an animal testing positive for COVID-19 in the United States was a tiger with a respiratory illness at a zoo in New York City. Samples from this tiger were taken and tested after several lions and tigers at the zoo showed signs of respiratory illness. Public health officials believe these large cats became sick after being exposed to a zoo employee who was actively shedding virus. This investigation is ongoing.

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 the Alabama COVID-19 24/7 hotline at 1-888-264-2256 and ask for free or low-cost testing in your area. 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.

Q: I'm HIV positive and concerned about coronavirus. What precautions should I be taking other than social distancing?

A: Persons with HIV Should:

  • Keep at least a 30-day supply—and ideally a 90-day supply—of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs and other medications.
  • Talk to their pharmacists and/or healthcare providers about changing to mail order delivery of medications when possible.
  • Persons for whom a regimen switch is planned should consider delaying the switch until close follow-up and monitoring are possible.
  • Lopinavir/ritonavir (LPV/r) has been used as an off-label treatment for patients with COVID-19 and clinical trials are underway globally. If protease inhibitors (PIs) are not already part of a person’s ARV regimen, their regimen should not be changed to include a PI to prevent or treat COVID-19, except in the context of a clinical trial and in consultation with an HIV specialist. In a small open-label trial, 199 hospitalized patients with COVID-19 were randomized to either 14 days of LPV/r plus standard of care or standard of care alone. No statistically significant difference was seen between the two groups, with regards to time to clinical improvement or mortality.

Note: During the COVID-19 Response, 90-day prescriptions are available for all uninsured clients utilizing AIDS Drug Assistance Program formulary and for all insured clients based on their BCBS insurance plans allowable until June 30, 2020.

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For Specific Audiences

Q: I have questions regarding WIC?

A: Call our WIC Office at (334) 206-5673.

Q: What are people who receive their snap benefits at the end of the month supposed to do when there isn’t any food left?

A: The Food Assistance Division at the Department of Human Resources (DHR) administers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in Alabama. Please contact DHR.

Q: What are you doing to ensure the health of our garbage men?

A: COVID-19 is spread by respiratory droplets (mucous from the nose, mouth, throat, and lungs) which can be spread person to person over a distance of about six feet. Persons working outside, not close together, are not at risk from COVID-19 from working outside. Garbage and refuse collectors should take hygiene precautions such as gloves, good handwashing, or use of hand sanitizer. A cloth face covering may also be used.

Q: Can Coronavirus get into our food supply?

A: COVID-19 is not thought to be spread through food. However, when making food, persons should use appropriate hygiene for themselves, such as good handwashing, cleaning surfaces like countertops, refrigerator, and stove handles. Sick persons should not make food for other persons.

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.

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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: What do I do if I suspect I have COVID-19?

A: If you suspect you have COVID-19, call the Alabama COVID-19 24/7 hotline at 1-888-264-2256. Interpreters are available.

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 or call the Alabama COVID-19 24/7 Hotline at 1-888-264-2256 for testing sites and hours of operation near you. 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?

A: Testing through the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) lab is free, but healthcare providers or commercial and private laboratories may charge to collect the specimen from you. Call the Alabama COVID-19 24/7 hotline at 1-888-264-2256 and ask for free or low-cost testing in your area. Interpreters are available.

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 their place of residence for a period of 14 days, or other period of time as directed by the State Health Officer, or his designee, after receiving positive test results. Any person quarantined pursuant to this provision shall not leave their 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? I have a sore throat. 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 the Alabama COVID-19 24/7 hotline at 1-888-264-2256.

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. An emergency rule was passed on March 6 that placed SARS-CoV-2 on the list of notifiable diseases for 120 days. This means by law, healthcare providers and labs are to notify ADPH within 4 hours of a presumptive case. This emergency rule re: Alabama Notifiable Diseases/Conditions from March 6 and other emergency actions taken by state agencies as they participate in Alabama’s response to COVID-19 can be found on our General Counsel website.

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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 reported to 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: The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) continues to review data related to COVID-19. 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: Does total tested include results from commercial labs?

A: Total Tested on our COVID-19 Table and COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard represents unique individuals with tests that were satisfactorily performed by the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) Bureau of Clinical Laboratories (BCL), along with data from commercial and clinical labs. Commercial and clinical labs are required by law to report all positive and all negative results for SARS-CoV-2 to ADPH.

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 on 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. This information is from the Alabama Incident Management System (AIMS). Information related to persons on ventilators or in ICU changes 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 13% of persons require ventilatory support at some time in hospitalization, as well as about 25-30% of person requiring ICU support during some portion of their hospitalization. Cumulative totals for hospitalization, patients in ICU, and patients on ventilators can 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 Confirmed Cases 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: 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: Can I go swimming in a public pool?

A: Pools are no longer closed. Having said that, individuals and establishments (like condominiums and hotels) are still encouraged to always maintain six feet of separation between persons from different households. This will result in greatly diminished pool access. Establishments may wish to implement their own policies to allocate pool access among parties.

 Q: Can I go outside? Can I play golf or tennis? Can I take my children to the playground? What about boating, hunting, and fishing?

A: Generally, you may go outside as long as you stay six feet apart from other people. Keep exercising and go outside---but avoid activities that increase the risk of spreading COVID-19.

Q: Can I go to the beach?

A: Under the current Safer at Home health order, anyone using the Alabama beaches must maintain a consistent six-foot distance between himself or herself and all persons from a different household. The term "beach" means the sandy shoreline area abutting the Gulf of Mexico, whether privately or publicly owned, including beach access points.

Q: What are the recommendations for individuals, especially vulnerable persons, in slowing the spread of COVID-19?

A: The following are recommendations for individuals under the Safer at Home health order:

  • Minimizing travel outside the home, especially if sick.
  • Wearing face coverings around people from other households when it is necessary to leave the home.
  • Washing hands frequently with soap and water or hand sanitizer, especially after touching frequently used items or surfaces
  • Refraining from touching one's face.
  • Sneezing or coughing into a tissue, or the inside of one's elbow.
  • Disinfecting frequently used items and surfaces as much as possible.

Q: What steps can employers who are reopening take to protect their employees?

A: Effective May 11, 2020, and unless otherwise permitted or required by this order, all employers shall take reasonable steps, where practicable as work duties permit, to protect their employees by:

  • maintaining six feet of separation between employees;
  • regularly disinfecting frequently used items and surfaces;
  • encouraging handwashing;
  • preventing employees who are sick from coming into contact with other persons;
  • facilitating remote working arrangements; and
  • minimizing employee travel.

In addition to complying with the requirements of the current Safer at Home health order, employers are strongly encouraged to read and implement the Alabama Department of Public Health's Guidelines for Safeguarding All Businesses.

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.

Q: Are gyms and fitness centers open?

A: Effective May 11, 2020, athletic facilities—such as fitness centers and commercial gyms, spas, and yoga, barre, and spin facilities—shall open while complying with rules provided on the Safer at Home health order and are encouraged to follow the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) Guidelines for Athletic Facilities.

Q: Can I dine in at a restaurant or bar?

A: Yes, you can dine-in at a restaurant or bar. Having said that, individuals and businesses are still encouraged to always maintain six feet of separation between persons from different households. To help prevent COVID-19 transmission, there are several things individuals and businesses can do, including wearing a mask. Requirements and recommendations for individuals, employers, employees, and customers are listed in the Safer at Home health order. In addition to complying with the requirements, restaurants and bars are strongly encouraged to read and implement the Alabama Department of Public Health's Guidelines for Safeguarding All Businesses and Guidelines for Restaurants and Bars.

 

Q: Can I go to a hair, nail, or tattoo salon?

A: Yes, you may go to a salon. Having said that, individuals and close-contact service providers are still encouraged to always maintain six feet of separation between persons from different households. To help prevent COVID-19 transmission, there are several things individuals and service providers can do, including wearing a mask. Requirements and recommendations for individuals, employers, employees, and customers are listed in the Safer at Home health order. In addition to complying with the requirements, close-contact service providers are strongly encouraged to read and implement the Alabama Department of Public Health's Guidelines for Safeguarding All Businesses and Guidelines for Close Contact Personal Service Businesses.

Q: Can I go to church? What about weddings and funerals?

A: Yes, you may attend these services, but only in limited circumstances. A service can proceed in person if people are spaced at least six feet apart from one another. Or, it can be a "drive in" service where people remain in cars with other people from their household---spaced six feet away from people in other cars. To help prevent COVID-19 transmission, every effort should be made to conduct these services through remote participation. Organizers of religious gatherings are strongly encouraged to read and implement the Alabama Department of Public Health's Guidelines for Places of Worship.

Q: Are schools open?

A: Schools will be allowed to operate June 1, 2020, but are subject to social distancing and sanitation rules and guidelines. Requirements and recommendations are listed in the current Safer at Home health order. In addition to complying with the requirements, educational institutions are strongly encouraged to read and implement the Alabama Department of Public Health's Checklist and Guidelines for School-Sponsored Activities.

Q: May I operate my childcare or daycare center?

A: Schools will be allowed to operate May 23, 2020, but are subject to social distancing and sanitation rules and guidelines.These facilities are encouraged to use enhanced sanitation and social distancing practices consistent with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH). To help prevent COVID-19 transmission, there are several things individuals and businesses can do, including wearing a mask. Requirements and recommendations for individuals, employers, employees, and customers are listed in the Safer at Home health order. In addition to complying with the requirements, childcares and daycare centers are strongly encouraged to read and implement ADPH's Guidelines for Safeguarding All Businesses and Guidelines for Child Day Care Facilities.

Q: Are tourists attractions and entertainment venues open?

A: Yes, with restrictions. To help prevent COVID-19 transmission, there are several things individuals and businesses can do, including wearing a mask. Entertainment venues and tourists attractions are required to comply with rules listed in the Safer at Home health order. In addition to complying with the requirements, tourist attractions and entertainment venues are strongly encouraged to read and implement the Alabama Department of Public Health's Guidelines for Safeguarding All Businesses and Guidelines for Tourist Attractions and Entertainment Venues. Entertainment venues and tourists attractions include bowling alleys, arcades, concert venues, theaters, auditoriums, performing centers, museums, planetariums, race tracks, commercial or public playgrounds, adult entertainment venues, casinos, and bingo halls.

Q: Are swim teams (adult and youth) allowed to operate?

A: Yes, with restrictions. The current Safer at Home health order allows for pools to be open. Having said that, six feet of separation must always be maintained between swimmers from different households in the pool and between swimmers and spectators on the pool deck and associated spaces. This will result in greatly diminished pool access.

Q: Are adult and youth sports teams allowed to operate?

A: Yes, with restrictions. Adult and youth teams are required to comply with rules listed in the Safer at Home health order. Practice for youth sports is allowed and competition can start June 15. To help prevent COVID-19 transmission there are several things that participants can do. In addition to complying with the health order, they are strongly encouraged to follow the Guidelines for Adult and Youth Athletic Activities.

Q: Are day and overnight summer camps allowed to operate?

A: Yes, but they are subject to social distancing and sanitation rules and guidelines. Organizers of day and overnight summer camps are required to comply with rules listed in the Safer at Home health order. In addition to complying with the health order, they are strongly encouraged to follow the Guidelines for Day and Overnight Youth Summer Camps.

Q: How does the Safer at Home health order affect retailers?

A: Effective May 11, 2020, all retail stores shall comply with the following rules:

  • Emergency maximum occupancy rate: Occupancy shall be limited to no more than 50 percent of the normal occupancy load as determined by the fire marshal. This "emergency maximum occupancy rate" shall be posted in a conspicuous place, and enough staff shall be posted at the store entrances and exits to enforce this requirement.
  • Social distancing: An employee of the retail store may not knowingly allow customers or patrons to congregate within six feet of one another.
  • Sanitation: The retail store shall take reasonable steps to comply with guidelines on sanitation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Alabama Department of Public Health.

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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: August 12, 2020