Numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases topped 500 in Alabama as of Thursday.

While other medical facilities are feeling the burden of serving a growing sick population, Russell Medical isn’t seeing a large increase in patients needing care from the coronavirus but is still ready.

“We are working on plans if we see a patient surge,” Russell Medical director of marketing Susan Foy said. “We have not had to act on them.”

Foy said restrictions are still in place for the hospital and visitors. At the hospital, no visitors are allowed with very few exceptions. Doctors’ appointments are the only things happening in the Professional Building but everyone will be stopped before entering the facilities at Russell Medical.

“We are screening everyone, that includes employees,” Foy said. “Everyone who comes in has to answer questions. Everyone gets their temperatures checked.”

It’s all in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, to which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports elderly and those with other medical complications are more susceptible.

As numbers of confirmed cases climb, Russell Medical still continues to test for COVID-19 following CDC guidelines.

“We have tested 146 so far,” Foy said. “We have only gotten three positives.”

As of 6:30 p.m. the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) reported four cases in Tallapoosa County, two in Coosa County and 524 statewide.

To the southeast of Tallapoosa County, things are a little bit different. East Alabama Medical Center director of marketing John Atkinson reports EAMC is caring for numerous cases and medical officials are seeing a trend of sorts.

“While there are no absolute patterns among the 47 confirmed cases in Lee County, one nugget of information does stand out a little — the last public setting for a sizable number of them was at church,” Atkinson said. “Not at one church or churches in one town but at church in general. While many churches have moved to online services only or canceled church services altogether in the interim, there are reports that some still met as recently as last Sunday.”

Atkinson said EAMC understands the importance of church to most but medical officials are recommending against the large gatherings.

“We know that being at church is very sacred to many people, but it’s also a place where people are in very close contact and often greet each other with hugs and handshakes as a ritual,” Atkinson said. “With that in mind, we again are asking that church members please not gather until our region has been deemed safe for group activities. Please find alternate ways to worship and stay together as a ‘church’ without congregating.”

Atkinson also reported EAMC has 15 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 as of 6 p.m. Thursday. One patient who was previously hospitalized with COVID-19 has been discharged. There are 24 patients who are currently hospitalized with suspected COVID-19. Twelve hospitalized patients who were previously suspected of COVID-19 have been ruled negative for the virus.

Atkinson said the 47 confirmed cases in Lee County could be due to more frequent testing and the facility continues to look at trends and patterns.

“We started with one confirmed case on Sunday, March 15 and we stand at 47 confirmed cases just 11 days later,” Atkinson said. “Obviously, a lot of tests have been performed here — over 900 as of Thursday. Perhaps that explains why Lee County has the third most confirmed cases in Alabama.”

Atkinson said 912 tests from EAMC for the coronavirus have been submitted to testing labs so far, 644 were negative and 215 tests are still pending.

Cliff Williams is a staff writer for Tallapoosa Publishers.