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New cases hit state record; CDC eases guidelines

Alabama reported a record number of new COVID cases on Wednesday, as the CDC loosened its guidelines for quarantine.

According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, the state added 3,928 new cases on Wednesday. Of those, 706 were delayed results from late November testing.

The state’s positivity rate is more than 35 percent, placing it among the highest in the nation.

In Pike County, seven new cases on Wednesday brought the county’s 14-day positivity rate to 33.05 percent.

The current surge in COVID cases doesn’t include any Thanksgiving holiday spread, which will begin showing up in testing numbers within the next seven days, experts said.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control is warning Americans to avoid travel during the upcoming Christmas and New Year Holidays.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that the best way to stay safe and protect others is to stay home.

The agency also announced new guidelines that shorten recommended quarantines after close contact with someone infected with coronavirus. The agency said the risk in a shorter quarantine is small, but that the change makes following the guidance less of a hardship.

The no-travel advice echoes recommendations for Thanksgiving but many Americans ignored it. With COVID-19 continuing to surge, the CDC added the testing option.

“Cases are rising, hospitalizations are increasing , deaths are increasing. We need to try to bend the curve, stop this exponential increase,” the CDC’s Dr. Henry Walke said during a briefing.

He said any travel-related surge in cases from travel would likely be apparent about a week to 10 days after Thanksgiving.

The virus has infected more than 13.5 million Americans and killed at least 270,000 since January.

“The safest thing to do is to postpone holiday travel and stay home,” said Dr. Cindy Friedman, another CDC official. “Travel volume was high over Thanksgiving,’’ and even if small numbers were infected, that could result in ‘’hundreds of thousands of new infections.”

‘’Travel is a door-to-door experience that can spread virus during the journey and also into communities that travelers visit or live,” she added.

For those who decide to travel, COVID-19 tests should be considered one to three days before the trip and again three to five days afterward, the CDC said.

The agency also recommended travelers reduce non-essential activities for a full week after they return or for 10 days if not tested afterward. And it emphasized the importance of continuing to follow precautions including masks, social distancing and frequent hand-washing.

The revised quarantine guidance says people who have been in contact with someone infected with the virus can resume normal activity after 10 days, or seven days if they receive a negative test result. That’s down from the 14-day period recommended since the pandemic began.

The change is based on extensive modeling by CDC and others, said the agency’s Dr. John Brooks.

The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) on Wednesday released a statement saying the department is pleased the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has provided some guidance that allows for changes to COVID-19 home quarantine time frames. States have been asked to review their respective COVID-19 situations, including the ability to handle an increase in demand for SARS-CoV-2 testing, in order to implement changes most appropriate to each state.

ADPH, in its commitment to protect Alabamians during this pandemic, is studying the information and supporting documentation. ADPH expects to announce its recommendations for Alabama soon.