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Hospital officials encourage vaccine booster, N95 mask during omicron surge

Huntsville Hospital CEO Jeff Samz said positivity rates at the hospital are at an all-time high, about 31 percent.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Madison County health officials say it could be weeks before we see a peak in omicron COVID numbers.

In Madison County, Huntsville Hospital reports 116 positive inpatients, of those, 18 are in ICU and nine on ventilators, as of January 5. System-wide, officials say more than 220 are COVID inpatients. Of those, 43 are in the ICU and 15 are on ventilators.

Huntsville Hospital CEO Jeff Samz said positivity rates at the hospital are at an all-time high, about 31 percent.

He says about 80 percent of cases are from the omicron variant.

The majority of COVID inpatients are unvaccinated, and only one patient in the hospital with a booster vaccination is in the ICU.

“I think that’s important that our local experience is consistent with what you see on the national news. Vaccination is helpful in preventing severe disease. Even if there are a number of breakthrough infections. It is doing its job in preventing severe disease and the booster shot appears very necessary in the omicron variant,” said Samz.

“Vaccination remains the least expensive, most effective tool to keep you safe. A booster shot is extremely important with the omicron.”

ER Physician Dr. Ric Koler with Crestwood Medical Center said masking is key.

“Be healthy - we hear a lot about vaccinations and masks. And it is correct, the N95 are going to be the best and those are more readily available now than they were at the beginning of the pandemic. K95, surgical masks are the next two choices, and then the cloth masks. And as the CDC recommended, you probably want to step up your game. Single cloth masks is probably not going to be protective against this variant. So double cloth or double mask if you can,” said Koler.

Samz says while most of the hospital staff system-wide are mostly vaccinated,  nearly five hundred are out due to quarantine and isolation protocols.

“We do have a request that people do not come to the emergency department for routine testing or minor illness. Contact your primary care physician’s office. Or walk-in clinics, or use our Fever and Flu Clinic on Governor’s Drive.”

Huntsville Hospital’s Fever and Flu Clinic on Governors Drive is open Monday through Friday, and the Vaccination Clinic on John Hunt Park is open four days a week.

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