COVID-19 cases continue to spike in Madison County at “alarming rate”
MADISON – The COVID-19 cases in North Alabama and the rest of the state are going in the wrong direction. The escalating numbers come as State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris provided more details on the planned roll-out of a vaccine in the state.
The Alabama Department of Public Health reported 320 new cases of COVID-19 among Madison County residents on Thursday. That was nearly identical to Wednesday’s total of 318.
Madison Hospital reported 31 patients with COVID-19. Five were on ventilators and six were in ICU. In Huntsville Hospital System facilities throughout the county 160 COVID patients with 20 on ventilators and 20 in ICU.
Over the past two weeks, there have been 2,786 Madison County residents test positive for COVID, which brings the overall total to 14,521 since testing began. There have been 153 deaths attributed to the virus so far.
In Limestone County, there were 75 new cases of COVID reported Thursday, bringing the two-week total to 650. So far, there have been 46 deaths in the county from the virus.
“Our numbers are trending up at an alarming rate,” said David Spillers, CEO of Huntsville Hospital Health System, which includes Madison Hospital.
He said the hospitalization numbers probably include no infections contracted over Thanksgiving, which generally won’t begin to result in hospitalizations for another one to two weeks. “What worries us is we’ll roll out of taking care of the increase in patients from Thanksgiving right into Christmas where we’ll have opportunities for families to get together, a lot of shopping, a lot of things that get people close together.”
Spillers said hospitals have to assume that the number of COVID-19 patients will continue to increase, and that he expects additional restrictions soon on hospital visitations throughout the Huntsville Hospital Health System.
“For the next couple of months until we get this under control, you just need to assume that no place is safe and there’s no one that is safe. You don’t know. There seems to be some perception that if I only have family members coming over to the house for dinner, it’s OK,” Spillers said Thursday. “It only takes one family member with 15 others to infect all 15.”
Harris today said he hopes the state will begin receiving vaccine shipments in the middle of this month. He said in the first week, he expects Alabama to receive about 41,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, enough to vaccinate 20,500 people, far fewer than initially expected. About a week after the first Pfizer shipment comes, he expects the state to receive about the same number of doses of the Moderna vaccine, which also requires two doses per person.
He said the highest priority on the vaccines will be the state’s 300,000 health care workers and about 30,000 nursing home residents and 30,000 nursing home staff, but there will not be enough vaccine doses in the early shipments to vaccinate those groups.
“We are going to do our best to reach everyone as quickly as possible, and yet we know that there are going to be people who deserve it and need it who just aren’t going to have it right away,” Harris said.
Harris said the Pfizer vaccine will generally be shipped to larger cities, both because it requires specialized facilities than can store the vaccine at extremely low temperatures and because it comes in large shipments. Its comparatively short shelf life means the 975 doses that come in a shipment must be distributed quickly, which is less feasible in rural areas.
The Moderna vaccine, which is available in shipments of about 100 doses and can be stored in conventional freezers, will likely be the main vaccine used in rural areas, Harris said.