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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – With the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Alabama increasing, food banks in the state expect to see an increase in demand due to job and food insecurity.

As of Friday, there are 81 confirmed cases in the state, five in Madison County. No deaths have been reported.

During today’s Huntsville-area COVID-19 briefing, Executive Director Laura Lester with the Alabama Food Bank Association said before the pandemic, approximately 800,000 people, including 1 in 4 kids, in Alabama were food insecure. She said over 16 million pounds of food was distributed in the state in 2019. As more workers lose their hours, the situation will only get worse.

Lester commended the department of education for continuing to feed students, but said the need is still growing. Support from the community is critical. She said the best and safest way to help is through monetary donations to the Food Bank of North Alabama and other food banks so they can buy what they need.

Dr. Karen Landers with the Alabama Department of Public Health stressed the public has the power to stop the spread if they follow the recommendations outlined in Thursday’s health order from the governor.

Landers said there has been additional discussion on how the order pertains to large workplaces but not guidance has been released publicly by the ADPH or the Governor’s Office.

People who are asymptomatic — no fever, cough, shortness of breath — don’t need to be tested, according to Landers. She said the Bureau of Clinical Laboratories has processed 958 COVID-19 tests as of Thursday night.

Madison Mayor Paul Finley said while Madison and Huntsville city halls remains open, people are encouraged to use online portals for services. Madison’s city council meeting is still scheduled to take place Monday, but the council will not be taking public comment.

He added the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber and the Madison Chamber are working on ways to support restaurants.

Huntsville leaders plan to hold a COVID-19 briefing Saturday, March 21 at noon.