UAB’s Rachael Lee, M.D., answers more of your COVID-19 questions

Rachael Lee, M.D., answered questions regarding COVID-19 during a media briefing Oct. 23.

Editor's Note: The information published in this story is accurate at the time of publication. Always refer to for UAB's current guidelines and recommendations relating to COVID-19.

Every day, doctors and researchers are uncovering new clues when it comes to COVID-19.  

On Friday, Oct. 23, UAB Medicine health care epidemiologist Rachael Lee, M.D., answered a wide range of questions in a news briefing. Below are some of the questions asked during the briefing.

Q: Why are we beginning to see another increase in cases in Alabama?

I think there are a few reasons. No. 1 is that we’re all exhausted from COVID-19. We have been dealing with this since March, and I think it’s easy for us to drop our guard. We miss friends, and we want to make sure that we can connect with them again.  

Based on what the CDC has said, we may see an increase in these cases because we’re having more indoor events where people are not wearing masks and watching our distance like they used to. Potentially, some of these larger outdoor events could be triggering this as well, especially if you weren’t wearing a mask around one another.  

In addition, people may not be recognizing their illness until they start really developing symptoms. You may have a runny nose and a slight sore throat and you may relate that more to your allergies, but you’re forgetting that you may have had an exposure to someone else who has COVID-19. It’s very important for those people who have mild symptoms to get tested.

It does not appear that schools are related to these transmission events.

qanda2Rachael Lee, M.D.Q: How is UAB preparing for the rise in COVID-19 patients?

UAB is lucky to have our command center structure in place, which includes our inpatient operations team, medical specialists and infection prevention colleagues, and others, who all meet regularly to discuss logistics about our facility and how we would deal with a potential surge of patients.

We’ve been fortunate that our operations team monitors the number of patients in our hospital daily and, along with our nursing staff, monitors the number of nurses we have present and continually looks at opening up new beds or new areas where we can take care of patients. Anytime that we see a potential surge, we get a lot of estimations of numbers from the UAB School of Public Health. We start our forward planning to make sure that we know which units we may need to open up and turn into a COVID unit and also potentially reduce the number of scheduled elective surgeries if need be, like we did back in March.

Q: When can a COVID-positive person resume normal activities?

I typically tell my patients that, after the initial 10 days, they can resume their activities and see one another when they are fever-free for at least 24 hours. We want to see some sort of improvement in your symptoms, whatever symptoms they may be.  

If your symptoms have not improved, please contact your health care provider to see if there’s something else that could be going on in addition to COVID-19. The sooner you can contact your health care provider if your symptoms have not resolved, the better.

Q: Can you discuss how influenza is impacting COVID at this point?

I would say we’re not having a surge of flu. To this point, we’ve only had four admissions of cases of influenza.

When I start seeing that in addition to COVID-19, that’s when I really want to remind everybody that we do have a flu vaccine and flu treatment options, so it’s all the more important to get a flu vaccine. I think typically we start seeing our surge of flu in the end of December or January.

Q: Could we see an uptick in positive cases as we enter winter months and flu season?

I definitely think we could see an uptick in cases. In our community, we need to think about how we can reduce our risk while still having a safe holiday season.  

For instance, when we have Thanksgiving, we love to sit around the table very close and share food with one another. How can we reduce our risk? Maybe by going outside or maybe by having only one person make and another person serve the food.

Don’t go to someone’s house if you’re not feeling 100 percent. You can still utilize other methods to still share that holiday season, like over Zoom or some sort of virtual way to really share in the love that we have grown to know and have in our community. This will help reduce our risk going forward.