The first case of the new coronavirus in Alabama has been confirmed, the Alabama Department of Public Health said today.
The case was found in a resident in Montgomery County, State Health Officer Scott Harris said. Harris said the person had traveled to another state.
"We have been expecting to find a case for some time. We've tried to be very open about that. We are not surprised that we found a case," Harris said at a news conference.
The Alabama Department of Public Health recommended that people cancel or avoid large public gatherings with more than 500 people — schools and workplaces not included. Harris also said people should stay about 6 feet apart from others in public and to "please stay home if you are sick."
Alabama was one of the last states to report a case. The state lab began testing last week, Harris said.
State labs as of Thursday had only tested about 50 people for coronavirus.
Harris said testing at the state lab was initially limited to priority cases where people were considered most at risk because of travel to another country or because they were seriously ill. He said testing criteria has now been liberalized and the state will test a person when a doctor's recommends it.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. More than 5,000 deaths worldwide have been attributed to the virus.
Gov. Kay Ivey urged people to remain calm and take common sense precautions.
"We have taken a calm and collected approach in preparation for this first confirmed case, and we need to remember that calm and steady wins the race," Ivey said in a statement. "Alabamians should not be fearful, but instead, use common sense to watch out for themselves and others. We will remain engaged on the matter and continue prioritizing the health and well-being of all Alabamians."
Major universities, including he University of Alabama, Auburn University, Troy University and other institutions on Thursday announced a shift to online classes.