Huntsville celebrates ‘a good day’ in fight against COVID-19
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Huntsville Hospital ER staff
Dr. Sherrie Squyres, front row right in glasses, raised a banner with some of her Huntsville Hospital emergency room staff in April early in the COVID-19 fight. They were thanking the community for donations of equipment, meals and snacks as they worked to save lives. Today, official numbers show COVID-19 cases trending downward, which will lessen the load on ER staffs like this one if the trend continues.

Local Madison County leaders called Monday “a good day” to report on the fight against COVID-19 with fewer people in the Huntsville metro area hospitalized or testing positive for the virus.

But two things on the calendar – the reopening of schools this month and the upcoming Labor Day holiday – tempered an otherwise upbeat mood at a regular briefing on the pandemic’s effects on Madison County. “We really need to be careful,” Huntsville Hospital CEO David Spillers said. “Every holiday has led to a spike, (but) the numbers are showing what we put in place making a substantial difference.”

That was a reference to a July 7 Madison County Health Department order requiring face masks in most public places.

Spillers said 165 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in north Alabama hospitals that are part of the Huntsville Hospital system. In Madison County, 92 people are hospitalized with 14 in the Intensive Care Unit and 19 on ventilators. Crestwood Hospital in Huntsville has 11 COVID-19 patients today, Spillers said. “We like it when the numbers are going in this direction,” Spillers said. “We’d like them to continue to fall.”

The hospital has closed its remote testing sites as demand dropped for the fourth straight week, Spillers said. Tests are still available at the hospital’s Fever and Flu Clinic on Governors Avenue.

“I am proud to be here today,” Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said of the decline. “This is a good day.” Battle said the city has “seen the value of a public hospital” in the pandemic fight, and he pointed to statewide numbers showing the Huntsville metro area below other Alabama metros. “We can’t let up,” Battle said

Responding to questions, Spillers said the people who have died in Madison County in “almost every” case had a co-morbidity such as diabetes, high blood pressure or cardiovascular problems. Patients with diabetes and cardiovascular issues tend to have the worst time, Spillers said. Deaths caused by COVID-19 in north Alabama have been 62 percent white.

Spillers said wide availability of rapid testing would be “very helpful” as students go back to school and begin playing sports. “In the environment we are in, it would be a good thing to have,” he said.

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