Huntsville begins testing homeless, says pandemic plan working
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Huntsville Hospital sign
A sign located outside Huntsville Hospital on April 11, 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic.

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said today that coronavirus testing moved to the city’s homeless camps on Friday and compared coronavirus cases around the state with his city’s lower numbers.

Medical teams tested 17 people at Huntsville homeless camps and will also test at the three sites in the city where free meals are provided. No one tested had all the symptoms of the virus, Battle said, but anyone who wanted to be tested was tested. Results aren’t back yet.

Battle said the city had its first coronavirus case March 19, and it has recorded 187 in total since then. Battle said Mobile County has 454 cases, Jefferson County 597, Shelby County 219, Lee County 239 cases and Chambers County 202. “We’ve done very well,” Battle said, “but let’s don’t let up. Keep at it.”

Battle said he kept city employees working in garbage pickup, trash pickup, building inspections, permits, “even grass citations” to keep as much normalcy as possible. Community resource officers are also at big box stores and other officers are checking industries “making sure we’re following CDC guidelines,” he said.

“We are all trying to keep ourselves open,” Battle said. “I think that’s the most important thing right now is to show a somewhat normal situation out of an un-normal situation.”

Battle warned that “even after this, as we get back to normal, the virus is not going to go away.” It will be a “less than normal normal,” the mayor said. And the decision of when to open the economy won’t be his, Battle said, it will be Gov. Kay Ivey’s. But it will be up to Alabama’s cities to implement that decision.

A “new normal” is what Crestwood Hospital CEO Dr. Pam Hudson called what’s ahead. The “predicted surge time” for the virus in the Huntsville area is now “the next seven to 14 days,” Hudson said. But she qualified that saying, “I guess, on some of the models I’ve seen.”

Hudson said residents should start thinking now about new habits of separation, sanitizing and universal masking that can extend into whatever the new normal looks like. Hudson also said hospitals aren’t doing elective surgeries, but do have “plenty” of room for patients with significant or chronic conditions.

“We are beginning to hear stories now about folks who avoid getting the health they need and end up coming in in a crisis and end up with a hospital admission or longer hospital admission when their chronic conditions could have and should have been addressed earlier,” Hudson said.

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