HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Cover your face. Social distance. Slow the spread.
Leaders in both Madison and Morgan County are pleading with the public to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep the health care system from becoming overwhelmed.
- 33% of Huntsville in-hospital COVID-19 patients are in ICU
- 68% of those ICU patients are on ventilators.
- The average age of the patients is 54 years old.
- The youngest patient on a ventilator is 16 years old.
- Many of the people who have been hospitalized have pre-existing conditions.
- Morgan County hospitals, Helen Keller in the Shoals, Marshall Medical centers, and Limestone County hospital all have in-hospital COVID-19 patients.
- Madison County has seen nearly half of its positive cases in the last 14 days
- County and statewide numbers continue to grow. More testing is being done, but a higher percentage of those tests are coming back positive. This indicates that the increased numbers are not due to more testing, but more people infected.
According to David Spillers with Huntsville Hospital, most of the spread in Madison County is community spread and not connected to a certain location or facility like a workplace or nursing facility. This increases the urgency for people to take responsibility and follow masking guidelines.
The biggest concern right now with the growth of cases is the looming strain on the health care system. Spillers says that hospitals are busier than they were early in the pandemic with typical summer traumas and emergencies. While the Huntsville Hospital system currently has enough ICU beds and ventilators, another large growth in in-patients cases could stress the system, which has to accommodate non-COVID-19 and COVID-19 patients.
Part of the concern about health care is that if community spread continues, more health care workers and first responders will become ill and required to quarantine, reducing the number available to care for the sick. Currently, 14 HEMSI workers are unable to work due to COVID-19 illness. In the past, hospital officials have stressed that ICU and ventilator capacity is not just about equipment. It's about having the trained staff to care for the patients.
The loudest message: wear masks and social distance.
Madison County Commissioner Dale Strong gave as evidence that when the Madison County Courthouse reopened, it had and still has in place strict rules about face covering, social distancing, sanitizing, and covering coughs and sneezes. At this time, there are no positive cases attributed to the courthouse of its satellite facilities.
When pressed about a possible mask requirement by the city or county, all of the speakers responded with calls for people to take personal responsibility. None felt that a mask ordinance is necessary at this time.
They also all stressed that this is not a political issue. It's about health, your own and others, and helping to keep the health care system and providers that serve everyone from becoming overwhelmed. They said they are data-driven, and want to pass the best information they can to the public.
With regards to testing, Spillers said that they are limited in testing by the supplies they are able to get but want to do more. He said that the number of asymptomatic patients testing positive is very low, but because you don't know if you or the person next to you in a public place actually has it and could be contagious, face-covering is essential.
Leaders are concerned about the upcoming July 4 weekend after seeing a significant rise is cases after Memorial Day. Strong said everyone needs to be mindful of that fact that Madison County saw an increase of cases after Memorial Day weekend. He contributed the increase to community transmission. City and health officials are urging the public to follow guidelines to limit the spread - wear a mask if you cannot be assured of social distancing, avoid large crowds, wash your hands or use hand sanitizer, and stay home if you feel sick.
Alabama Dept. of Public Health COVID-19 dashboard