HOOVER, Ala. (AP) — The U.S. surgeon general said Friday that Alabama remains in the “red zone” for COVID-19 spread, but numbers are headed in the right direction, as he and state health officials announced the opening of free testing sites.
The testing sites will be open for two weeks and have the capacity to do large numbers of free COVID-19 tests. People will go to the sites and do a self-administered nasal swab and submit the sample for testing. Health officials announced the sites at a press conference attended by U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams at one of the sites outside the Riverchase Galleria in Hoover.
“The power to stop COVID lies in each and every one of our hands,” Adams said.
Adams said he wanted to give a “thanks and shout out” to Gov. Kay Ivey and State Health Officer Scott Harris for implementing a statewide mask mandate. He said Alabama remains in the red zone for case numbers and the percentage of tests coming back positive, but the numbers are showing improvement.
“Thank you to the people of Alabama. You are the only state that is in the red that has indicators all moving in the right direction.”
The new collection sites are an attempt to increase testing as asymptomatic spread drives virus transmission. People will be given a kit to do a self-administered nasal swab at the sites and submit it for testing. People can register for the tests and find locations at www.doineedacovid19test.com
While speaking at the press conference, the surgeon general demonstrated how people will do the test, which involves putting a collection stick in each nostril. It does not need to go back to the throat like some tests do.
“Testing is free and available to anyone who can self-swab, including children regardless whether or not you are experiencing symptoms,” Adams said.
Jefferson County Health Officer Mark Wilson said the testing sites are an important opportunity to get a lot of people testing in a short amount of time. He said the sites can do up to 60,000 tests over the next two weeks.
“We want people who don’t have symptoms to get tested if they have any inkling they have been in an environment, or in a place, where they might have been exposed — large crowds, or maybe they are essential workers who are dealing with the public a lot,” Wilson said.
While Alabama cases numbers are headed in the right direction, Adams cautioned that all it takes is one group of people deciding to have a fraternity party or barbecue to spread the virus.
“That can turn into a cluster, which turns into an outbreak, which turns into greater community spread and we don’t have college football in the fall,” Adams said.
He said the most important thing people can do is the three W’s — wear a mask, wash your hands and watch your distance from others.