Masks. This was the key message from local leaders. Wear your mask.
In the last two weeks, cases in Madison County have jumped significantly, and local leaders are concerned about the effect on the community.
How can you help your community?
Wear a mask or face covering. Dr. Landers referred to a study that showed when that when two symptomatic COVID-19 salon workers went to work wearing mask, with clients wearing masks, 139 of those clients did not become ill. Of the 67 who agreed to be tested for COVID-19, none were positive, and none of the others developed symptoms.
"There is data to show that this is very helpful. There is information to show that we can get these rates down," says Landers.
The state health order requires "a mask or other facial covering that covers his or her nostrils and mouth at all times when within six feet of a person from another household in any of the following places: an indoor space open to the general public, a vehicle operated by a transportation service, or an outdoor public space where ten or more people are gathered." There are limited exceptions.
Stay home after your COVID-19 test. This is actually part of the state health order. You must quarantine at home until you get your test results. If you test positive, you need to quarantine for 14 days or other period of time as directed by the State Health Officer, or his designee, after receiving positive test results.
Stay home if you are sick. This includes you if you've had a negative test but have symptoms. Dr. Landers explained that cases are different, and depending on your level of risk or symptoms, you may still need to stay home for the 14-day quarantine.
Again, stay home if you are sick. Don't go to work or out in public. Get tested and stay home until you get your test results.
Practice social distancing and good respiratory hygiene. Stay 6 feet or more away from people who are not in your immediate household. Wash your hands frequently or use hand sanitizer. Cough into your sleeve. Wear your mask. In discussing his grandchild starting school, Mayor Battle said that the child is learning about hygiene, including handwashing, and practicing wearing a mask.
Wear your mask or face covering. Dr. Landers said that in order to flatten the curve (reduce the number of new cases), everyone who can needs to wear a mask. She recommended those people with respiratory issues who feel they cannot wear a mask should talk to their health care provider about how they can safely cover their face. People with respiratory issues are at high risk for COVID-19.
Mayor Tommy Battle says in comparison to other counties - Madison County's total number of confirmed cases are low. The downside is that the number of new cases are high.
"We lead in the number of cases over the last 14 days. That's one of the reasons why the mask ordinance was enacted was so that we could start to get a handle on it."
However Battle says the county is seeing some changes of COVID-19 related patients in the hospital.
"In Madison County, on 7/15 which was Wednesday we had 142 people in the hospital in Madison County. Today we're sitting at 124 people in the hospital related to COVID-19," says Battle.
While new cases and hospital capacity are leveling off in Madison County, leaders are urging the public not to get complacent. A particular focus was on getting back to school.
Dr. Karen Landers with the Alabama Dept. of Public Health said that COVID-19 numbers need to come down to help schools get back in session safely. She said that as a pediatrician, she is looking at the numbers of cases and guidance from the state and local on plans for a safe return to schools. She emphasized that masks, social distancing, and good hygiene are necessary for a safe return to school.
"We can protect our children. We can have the opportunity to get our children back into the school system by driving the rates down into the communities," added Landers.
Both Dr. Landers and Mayor Tommy Battle said that if all safety guidelines recommended by the State Superintendent of education were followed, they would send their children or grandchildren back to school.
Another topic was churches. Mayor Battle and Dr. Landers said that infections are coming from a broad base, and there are not any groups of cases specifically linked to local churches. They said that many churches are requiring face covering, and that while the state order exempts places of worship from the mandate, those places are still free to set their own rules on masks or face covering.
Bottom line: To help yourself, your neighbors, and your community, and to help schools reopen safely, wear a mask.