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Health officials concerned with COVID-19 hospitalization rate in Madison County

While the positive case rate in Madison County isn't increasing at alarming rates, hospitalizations are.

MADISON COUNTY, ALABAMA, Ala. — It has now been six months since Madison County had its first COVID-19 case, and local leaders expect there will be at least another sixth months of masking and social distancing. 

Coronavirus case numbers continue to go up in Madison County. While the positivity rate in the county isn't increasing at alarming rates, hospitalizations are. 

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Huntsville Hospital CEO David Spillers said, "A number that's a little bit concerning though is our seven day hospitalization rate is at 19.8%, and historically we've been running about 15%. That tells me the acuity of the patients who we're seeing with this is up a little bit leading to hospitalizations."

Health officials are encouraging people to get a flu shot now. They say flu season will bring about more challenges during the pandemic.

"It's going to be very hard if people do not get the flu shot and they do get the flu. When they show up at any health care facility, we're going to assume you have COVID until we know you don't have COVID," said Spillers. "It will use up a lot of tests, take up a lot of your time. You'll have to be quarantined, etc."

Although officials believe there will not be a coronavirus vaccine by Thanksgiving, they are hopeful to have one by the end of 2020.

RELATED: Drive-up coronavirus testing in Huntsville, Athens

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said, "This is not a very short sprint. This is a long marathon. This is something that will take a little while to work out and work through the system. Even when a vaccine comes, it will take a while for the vaccine to be distributed and we'll have to work through the processes again."

Once there is a vaccine, it will likely be allocated to those who are most at risk first.

"That is going to be your front line health care workers, your EMS," said Spillers. "The area that has the highest percentage of deaths, nursing home and assisted living. We've got to vaccinate those people first."

Huntsville Hospital is having a drive-thru COVID-19 testing clinic Thursday, Septemeber 17th at Union Chapel Church from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm.

For more information, click here.

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