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Madison County now tracking with the rest of Alabama for COVID-19 cases

As Madison County COVID-19 numbers continue to rise, local leaders are talking about who's at risk and why it matters.
Credit: Toyota Alabama
Toyota Alabama donated 5,000 masks to Huntsville City Schools.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Wear your mask. It's an ongoing message as local leaders work to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

This message of personal responsibility was repeated often during the July 8 Huntsville/Madison COVID-19 update.

WATCH: Watch current and past Huntsville/Madison County COVID-19 updates here.

One of the major concerns about the spread, according to Crestwood Hospital's Dr. Pamela Hudson, is the impact of the spread on local hospitals. She says, "The physical space can be dealt with. The difficulty for us is that there are only so many health care workers. They can be exposed in three ways: by patients, coworkers, and in family and social surroundings." When health care workers are exposed and cannot work, this makes it more difficult for hospitals to care for patients, as Huntsville Hospital CEO David Spillers and Mayor Tommy Battle explained during the July 1 update.

Why is this happening?

Dr. Pam Hudson spoke very plainly. "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know the things that we've been talking about: failure to follow social distancing, failure to follow masking recommendations...Locations with very, very high risk are, without a doubt, bars and restaurants where socialization is taking place standing side by side or sitting side by side." She says these are some of the reasons that we are seeing more people, and younger people, affected. 

She also stressed the importance of face covering, which, "If 80% of the population would cover their faces, transmission would reduce by 90%. If we're not performing at the level, we're going to continue to see this growth." Hudson quoted Dr. Anthony Fauci's statement on Tuesday, that 40% of the cases carrying and spreading the virus feel and look completely normal, and because if that it's harder to not get closer together.

Why does the spread of COVID-19 matter?

Dr. Hudson explained that 1 in 10 (10%) of people who get this will be hospitalized, 30% of those hospitalized will end up in an ICU, and of those, 30%-40% will die. More younger, active people are getting it than earlier in the pandemic.

Madison mayor Paul Finley expressed some of the same concerns as Dr. Hudson about the impact of health care workers and first responder. He said, "As they're managing the hospitals and HEMSI, they're having more people exposed, which means less people who can be on the front lines, and that is an impact.

RELATED: Madison County Masking Ordinance in effect: Here's what you need to know

What about testing?

Dr. Hudson said that testing is important, but, "that it is useless unless you also isolate until you know that you have a negative test. It is useless unless you are going to following the quarantine process if you are positive." She ask people to avoid "curiousity testing" so that testing supplies and capablities are not overwhelmed by who are not sick or exposed and want to "just see".

People who are tested for COVID-19 are required to quarantine at home until they get their test results. If they are positive, they must quarantine according to state guidelines.

Free testing will be available at John Hunt Park, but this capacity is limited, and earlier this week, the 350 tests were exhausted only a couple hours after testing began.

Madison County has seen an increase in the percentage of positive tests, moving the area up to the state average of about 10% after months of being well below that and sometimes as low as 2%-3%. Increased testing with a higher percentage of positive results is an indication that the virus is continuing to spread.

The county has increased cases by 53% in just a week, according to Mayor Finley, and escalating faster than the state itself.

RELATED: Coronavirus in Alabama: What you need to know

What's next?

Dr. Hudson rereated the call. "We have to change behavior...cover your face, make other people cover their faces, maintain social distancing and handwashing, and sanitize surfaces to flatten the curve." 

Mayor Finley reiterated these steps as being crucial to reduce spread. He also said, "It would be easier statewide if a mandate came from the governor when it came to face coverings." He said the governor's office is taking into account what the mayors of Alabama's 10 largest cities are saying.

The Madison County health order is in place as of July 7, with people required to wear face coverings in most public places. Finley believes that now that it is a rule, more people will comply.

RELATED: List of Alabama cities that have mask ordinances