The Alabama Department of Public Health on Friday elevated the weekly risk level of COVID-19 transmission in Morgan County to "very high risk," even as it reported a record number of new cases in the county and COVID-19 hospitalizations reached a new peak.

Decatur City Schools also reported a record number of students and staff in quarantine.

ADPH reported 175 new cases of COVID-19 among Morgan County residents Friday, breaking the record of 120 cases reported Oct. 30. Over the last week, Morgan County has averaged 92 new cases per day.

Decatur Morgan Hospital hit a record number of confirmed COVID-19 patients Friday with 44, plus an additional four who were awaiting test results. Five COVID-19 patients were in intensive care, including three on ventilators.

The record numbers of cases and hospitalizations locally are mirroring a statewide spike. The state had 2,463 new COVID-19 cases reported Friday, and has averaged 2,108 new cases per day over the last week. The disease had killed 3,451 Alabamians as of Friday, according to ADPH. 

Assistant State Health Officer Dr. Karen Landers last week said the number of hospitalizations statewide, which have steadily increased since early October and hit 1,329 on Friday, has reached alarming levels.

"Without blunting this curve, our health care system is very likely not to be able to handle this into the winter season," she said.

Quarantines and cases are continuing to rise throughout schools in Morgan County as well.

According to a Decatur City Schools update released Thursday, the district had 49 active cases of COVID-19, including 32 students and 17 employees. A total of 820 employees and students were in quarantine as of Thursday, including 722 students and 98 employees. That's the most the district has ever reported.

Students districtwide were learning virtually Friday due to the number of quarantines, but as of now students who are not quarantined are set to return to in-person instruction on Nov. 30, after Thanksgiving break.

Morgan County Schools, which does not release quarantine data, had 47 active cases of COVID-19 within the district as of Friday morning. Of the 47 who are infected, 29 are students and 18 are employees. Falkville High has the highest number of cases, with eight students and five staff who recently tested positive. Falkville High moved to virtual learning this week due to staffing issues caused by employee quarantines.

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Lawrence County

Also elevated to "very high risk" was Lawrence County, which on Friday had 27 new cases, second only to Thursday when it had 28. Over the last week, ADPH has reported an average of 18 new cases per day among Lawrence County residents.

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Limestone County

ADPH reduced the threat level in Limestone County on Friday from "very high risk" to "high risk." The county had 67 new cases reported Friday, and has averaged 46 new cases per day over the last week. Athens-Limestone Hospital has 11 COVID-19 patients, including two on ventilators.

ADPH releases updated risk levels each Friday based on data that cuts off six days before the updated assessments are released. As a result, Friday’s assessment is based on data from the previous week, ending Nov. 14.

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

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