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State reports one-day record for new deaths

Pike County added 10 new cases overnight Tuesday, bringing the county’s total of confirmed COVID-19 cases to 562 since tracking began in March.

Statewide, Alabama added 1,338 new cases according to the Alabama Department of Public Health 10 a.m. Wednesday update, bringing state totals to 70,413. The state has reported 1,325 COVID-19 related deaths, including six in Pike County, with a total of 1,547 current hospitalizations. Fifty seven new deaths were reported statewide, marking a one-day record high for virus-related deaths in Alabama.

The ADPH estimates 29,736 people have recovered from the virus since tracking began.

According to the ADPH risk assessment, Pike County remains under a high risk for spread of COVID-19. The categories are based off the number of days a county has a downward trend of new cases reported. If the county has a decreasing case count for 1 to 6 days, it is classified as high risk. Steady or increasing cases are classified as very high risk. Counties with a downward trajectory of 7 to 13 days would be classified as a moderate risk.

The categorization is one of the factors that could play a role as public school systems decide whether to reopen for traditional, on-campus learning in August.

Cynthia Thomas, superintendent of Troy City Schools, said Monday the district will consider the ADPH risk assessment as well as local factors in making its decision. “We will be having a meeting at the first of August to look at it,” she said.

Nationally, laboratories across the U.S. are buckling under a surge of coronavirus tests, creating long processing delays that experts say are actually undercutting the pandemic response.

With the U.S. tally of infections at 3.9 million Wednesday and new cases surging, the bottlenecks are creating problems for workers kept off the job while awaiting results, nursing homes struggling to keep the virus out and for the labs themselves, dealing with a crushing workload.

Some labs are taking weeks to return COVID-19 results, exacerbating fears that asymptomatic people could be spreading the virus if they don’t isolate while they wait. “There’s been this obsession with, ‘How many tests are we doing per day?’” said Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The question is how many tests are being done with results coming back within a day, where the individual tested is promptly isolated and their contacts are promptly warned.”

Frieden and other public health experts have called on states to publicly report testing turnaround times, calling it an essential metric to measure progress against the virus.

The testing lags in the U.S. come as the number of people confirmed to be infected globally passed a staggering 15 million on Wednesday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. leads the world in cases as well as deaths, which stand at more than 142,000 nationwide. New York, once by far the U.S. leader in infections, has been surpassed by California, though that is partly due to robust testing in a state with more than twice the population of New York.

Guidelines issued by the CDC recommend that states lifting virus restrictions have testing turnaround time under four days. The agency recently issued new recommendations against retesting most COVID-19 patients to confirm they’ve recovered.

“It’s clogging up the system,” Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant health secretary, told reporters last week.