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Madison County leaders concerned about COVID-19 spread at colleges

Health officials and local leaders believe the virus will likely spread at colleges as students gather together at bars and for parties.

MADISON COUNTY, ALABAMA, Ala. — As COVID-19 case numbers go down in Madison County, so do hospitalizations.

Local leaders applauded the community Wednesday afternoon for the downward trend.

RELATED: Experts credit masks for decline in new virus cases in the US

Health officials say fewer people are going to get tested for the virus, and testing abilities are also increasing throughout Alabama.

Huntsville Hospital CEO, David Spillers, said, "We're doing around 100,000 tests a week statewide. Back in early May, that number was a little less than 25,000 a week, so substantially more testing capabilities statewide. I think you will continue to see the ability to do tests ramp up across the state."

Leaders contribute the decline in cases to people wearing face masks and bars closing early.

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said, "The masking ordinance is part of our success. The no alcohol sales coming out of the ABC after 11 o'clock has been part of our success. I think we are on the right track at this time."

RELATED: More COVID-19 in Tennessee Valley Schools

There are still some concerns though. Health officials believe the virus will likely be spread at colleges.

"Clearly it could get out of hand very easily at a college if you get enough of the students that have COVID," said Spillers. "They'll have to do as they've done in North Carolina and go back to virtual schools. The University of North Carolina system basically shut down because the number of students with COVID got to the point that they can't isolate them on campus."

"It's the off campus activities that are giving the communities problems," said Battle. "Off campus, things like the strip when everybody goes down there and it's not within the campus boundaries, there have been some problems there."

RELATED: North Alabama drive-thru COVID-19 testing hosted by Thrive Alabama, Huntsville Hospital

Although the numbers are trending in a positive direction, local leaders are still stressing the importance of following social distancing guidelines until there is a vaccine.

WATCH: Madison County leaders expect a spike in coronavirus cases soon