Alabama reported 2,283 new coronavirus cases Thursday — the highest single-day increase in cases — and Morgan County added 46 as health officials cautioned it will take a few weeks to see the effect of a statewide mask order.

The spike came after several days of declining case numbers and as a number of school systems announced students will not immediately return to classrooms this fall.

The state topped more than 2,000 daily cases for the third time and is now averaging about 1,700 new cases reported each day.

In Morgan County, 46 new cases were reported by the Alabama Department of Public Health on Thursday, with the death toll remaining steady at 11. Over the past week, an average of 45 residents per day have tested positive for the new coronavirus. Decatur Morgan Hospital had 30 confirmed COVID-19 patients Thursday, including eight in the intensive care unit and five on ventilators. Another 11 patients are suspected of having the disease but are awaiting test results.

Limestone County had 16 new cases confirmed Thursday and its death toll remained at seven from COVID-19. Athens-Limestone Hospital had 12 COVID-19 patients Thursday, including three in the ICU and one on a ventilator.

Lawrence County added six new cases Thursday. No Lawrence County residents have died of the disease, according to ADPH.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey last week announced an order requiring face masks in public places. State health officials have cautioned it will take a few weeks to see any effect on case numbers.

“For the effects of masking, at least two weeks would be necessary, but three would be best,” State Health Officer Scott Harris wrote in a reply to The Associated Press.

Since the pandemic began, more than 72,696 people in the state have tested positive for the coronavirus with nearly one-third of cases being reported in the last two weeks. According to numbers from the state health department, 1,357 Alabamians have dies from the disease.

Alabama on Wednesday reported 57 additional deaths from COVID-19 patients. However, Harris said that spike is partly related to the state being able to work through a backlog.

“That said, we have more inpatients than ever in hospitals and so deaths will be increasing,” Harris said.

At least 1,547 people with COVID-19 were in state hospitals Wednesday.

School systems are making their own decisions about whether to hold in-person classes, distance learning or a combination approach when the school year begins. Several Alabama school systems announced this week that students will not immediately return to classrooms.

Decatur City Schools announced this week it may start with virtual-only classes if Morgan County remains in ADPH's "very high risk" category. ADPH has said it would incorporate new data and revise the counties' risk categories today.

Huntsville City, Madison City, Madison County, Tuscaloosa City, Birmingham City, Montgomery County and Mobile County, the state’s largest school system, are among the school districts that have announced students will do remote learning for the beginning of the year.

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eric@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2435. Twitter @DD_Fleischauer.

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