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Reeves: Fight COVID fatigue and stay safe

The COVID fatigue is real, but now is not the time to become lax in safety habits.

That’s the message shared by Troy Mayor Jason Reeves during the city council meeting on Tuesday.

“This has been a brutal situation,” he said of the COVID-19 pandemic that began in March. “And I know people are mentally fatigued … but this is our last battle. We need to stay strong.”

Reeves’ words of encouragement come as both the nation and the state are seeing a sharp increase in the spread of the coronavirus.

Alabama added 2,453 new cases on Wednesday, for an average of 1,715 new cases per day over the last seven days. Since March, the state has reported more than 239,318 cases and 3,532 deaths.

In Pike County, cases continue to rise, with the county adding 15 new cases Wednesday, pushing the 14-day positive rate to more than 27 percent and climbing. Since March, the county has seen 1,575 cases with 14 deaths.

Nationwide, more than 88,000 – an all-time high – were hospitalized with the virus on Wednesday.

“This is just the time of the year for viruses and sickness to spread,” Reeves said. “With COVID and the flu out there, we just need people to be careful.

“Please, keep your distance; wear a mask; wash your hands.”

With the potential of vaccines becoming public before the end of 2020, Reeves said he truly believes “we are getting closer every day to getting on the other side of this.”

Scientists at the University of Alabama at Birmingham say they aim to begin enrolling patients soon for a clinical trial of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Researchers at UAB’s Alabama Vaccine Research Clinic hope to get approval this week to start enrolling patients in a study to test the effectiveness of a COVID vaccine being manufactured by the pharmaceutical firm Johnson & Johnson, clinic director Dr. Paul Goepfert said.

The company is trying to recruit 60,000 participants for the study, Al.com reported.

The vaccine UAB plans to test requires only standard refrigeration, and can be given in a single dose, Goepfert said.

Meanwhile, millions of Americans took to the skies and the highways ahead of Thanksgiving at the risk of pouring gasoline on the coronavirus fire, disregarding increasingly dire warnings that they stay home and limit their holiday gatherings to members of their own household.

Those who are flying witnessed a distinctly 2020 landscape at the nation’s airports: plexiglass barriers in front of the ID stations, rapid virus testing sites inside terminals, masks in check-in areas and on board planes, and paperwork asking passengers to quarantine on arrival at their destination. While the number of  Americans traveling by air over the past several days was down dramatically from the same time last year, many pressed ahead with their holiday plans amid skyrocketing deaths, hospitalizations and confirmed infections across the U.S.

Some were tired of more than eight months of social distancing and determined to spend time with loved ones.

“I think with the holidays and everything, it’s so important right now, especially because people are so bummed out because of the whole pandemic,” said 25-year-old Cassidy Zerkle of Phoenix, who flew to Kansas City, Missouri, to visit family during what is traditionally one of the busiest travel periods of the year.

The coronavirus is blamed for more than 12.6 million confirmed infections and over 269,000 deaths in the U.S.  More than 88,000 people in the U.S. — an all-time high — were in the hospital with COVID-19 as of Tuesday, pushing the health care system in many places to the breaking point, and new cases of the virus have been setting records, soaring to an average of over 174,000 per day.

Deaths have surged to more than 1,600 per day, a mark last seen in May, when the crisis in the New York area was easing.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and local authorities have begged people not to travel and urged them to keep their Thanksgiving celebrations small. About 900,000 to 1 million people per day passed through U.S. airport checkpoints from Friday through Tuesday, a drop-off of around 60% from a year ago.

Still, those were some of the biggest crowds since the COVID-19 crisis took hold in the U.S. in March.

Last year, a record 26 million passengers and crew passed through U.S. airport screening in the 11-day period around Thanksgiving.

More Americans drive than fly during the holiday, and AAA has projected those numbers are also likely to be lower this year. How much lower the auto club has not said.

Many states and cities have adopted precautions. Travelers to Los Angeles, either by plane or train, were required to fill out an online form acknowledging California’s request that people quarantine for two weeks after arrival in the state.

Thea Zunick, 40, boarded a flight from Newark, New Jersey, to Florida to see her 90-year-old grandmother and her parents.

“We’ve all kind of decided like it’s worth the risk,” Zunick said. “But I wanted to make sure that all the efforts that I’ve made to stay healthy isn’t undone by other people’s carelessness. And absolutely, I know that I’m taking a risk by flying. I know that, but sometimes it’s necessary.”

She isolated at home for days before the trip, got a COVID-19 test that came back negative, and made sure to choose an early and direct flight. She also masked up and layered a face shield on top.

“I felt like an astronaut, to be honest,” Zunick said.

Once at the airport, Zunick said, she saw poor adherence to mask-wearing, loose enforcement of rules, long lines to check baggage and a disregard for social distancing in security lines.

Once she boarded her completely full flight, with middle seats occupied, she watched passengers eat and drink with their masks pulled down and sat next to a passenger wearing a loose bandanna, prompting her to call over a flight attendant, she said.

“I said to the stewardess, ‘Hey, the person next to me, is that permitted? Because it’s making me uncomfortable.’ They’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s fine.’ But it’s not,” Zunick said. “The bottom of it was open. And it was tied so loosely that it kept falling down throughout the flight and he kept messing with it and trying to make it tighter and pull it up.”

Anne Moore, a 60-year-old woman from Chicago, flew to Albany, New York, to be with her daughter for the holiday. Her daughter is a senior at Dartmouth University, and Moore and her husband were worried about her driving back to Illinois by herself.

Before the spike, the family had planned to hold a Thanksgiving gathering of fewer than 10 people. But instead it will be just Moore, her husband and her daughter.

“I have friends who are alone. And I’m not inviting them. And I feel badly about that,” she said. “We’ll take a walk or something instead. But yeah, the three of us are isolating.”