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Mayor Of Montgomery, Ala.: 'We Have Not Won The Battle With COVID-19 Yet'

The number of new coronavirus cases has been going up in Alabama even as the state's governor relaxes restrictions.

Last week's number of new cases was up from the week before. Of the more than 15,000 confirmed cases across the state, about one-third have been confirmed within the last 14 days.

In Montgomery County, which includes the state capital of Montgomery, there are 1,332 cases. Almost half of those were reported in the last two weeks.

Mayor Steven Reed says the city has been flagged as a potential COVID-19 "hot spot" and that its health system's capacity to manage the crisis has hit unsustainable levels.

Reed spoke with NPR's David Greene on Morning Edition about the situation in the city. Here is an excerpt of the interview:

What are you hearing from hospitals in terms of what they need most in this moment?

Right now, what I'm hearing is that they're looking for us to sound the alarm and to let people know we're still in the middle of a pandemic, and that we are in a health crisis and that they're running short on PPE. They're running short, obviously, on beds and that the staffs are physically and emotionally spent.

So we have to do our part as leaders in the community to make sure we get the public to understand this is not over. We have not won the battle with COVID-19 yet. And we have to continue some of the things that we were doing just a couple of months ago by staying at home, wearing masks when in public and practicing all of these sanitary guidelines that have been handed down by the CDC.

Have you been seeing people in the city social distancing, wearing masks? Are residents taking those precautions?

I think some are. I think some have decided that the pandemic is over and they're ready to get back to their normal way of doing things and they are willing to take the risk. Unfortunately, it's not just themselves that they put at risk when they do that. They put members of the public, their friends, family, colleagues at risk, and certainly our first responders and those medical professionals who are also doing just a great job and have been over the last couple of months.

Is there something that makes your city more vulnerable? Where do you think the spike is coming from right now?

We can't point to any one particular place or flashpoint, if you will. I think what makes us vulnerable is the fact that we're the regional health care center for central Alabama. And so we have people that come from as far away as 90, 100 miles to our health care system. So we're getting people from everywhere.

And certainly I think here Montgomery, we've had people who, again, have relaxed their approach and have relaxed their practices and aren't adhering to social guidelines anymore.

Listen to the full interview here.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

James Doubek is an associate editor and reporter for NPR. He frequently covers breaking news for NPR.org and NPR's hourly newscast. In 2018, he reported feature stories for NPR's business desk on topics including electric scooters, cryptocurrency, and small business owners who lost out when Amazon made a deal with Apple.