HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The weekly COVID-19 update was given by Huntsville City leaders.
Jeff Birdwell, Huntsville-Madison County EMA Director, Dr. Pam Hudson, Crestwood Medical Center CEO, and Dr. Aruna Arora, Neurologist and Madison County Medical Society President spoke at this week’s briefing.
Huntsville-Madison County EMA Director Jeff Birdwell began the meeting with the latest COVID-19 numbers. There have been 837,428 cases of COVID-19 in the state of Alabama. 52,830 of those cases were in Madison County, resulting in 722 deaths during the pandemic. Madison County’s case positivity rate has dropped to 4.6%.
Crestwood Medical Center CEO Dr. Pam Hudson gave the Madison County combined area hospital numbers saying, currently, there are 37 COVID-19 inpatients, with 9 patients in the ICU and 7 of those on a ventilator.
“This is good news for our health care teams, certainly,” said Hudson. “But this is still a virus that we need to be concerned about. Vaccination is really the key to interrupting COVID’s evil ways among our population.”
Hudson says some models predict a surge in COVID-19 cases after the holidays. “That is likely to hit in areas where there are low vaccination rates. Areas that have a greater vulnerable population to spread the virus and infect more people.”
The pediatric vaccine was recently approved for children ages 5-11. The government’s Vaccines.gov website has information on where to get the new COVID-19 vaccination.
“It is available in our community,” said Hudson. “Some of the pharmacies have it and Huntsville Hospital should have it by tomorrow. ADPH also has vaccines and Huntsville Pediatric Associates has already started vaccinating.”
Recently, there’s been a lot of controversy surrounding federally implemented vaccine mandates.
One of the mandates aims at ensuring higher vaccination rates in hospitals. More specifically, those that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid program
Crestwood Medical Center happens to be one of them.
During the briefing, News 19 got a chance to ask Crestwood Medical Center’s CEO just how the new rules could affect her employees.
“There’s a lot of like legal action going on, so you don’t exactly know where things are going to end up. But at the end of the day, it’s our obligation to do what’s safe for our workers and safe most of all for our patients. So that we can continue to serve them and continue to be a solid health care team.”
The CMS mandate requires medical providers to work to ensure all staff are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Dr. Hudson says Crestwood is not quite there yet. “We are fortunate that in our workforce, we’re about 75% vaccinated.”
Religious and medical exemptions are accepted but the hospitals must have a contingency plan for those individuals.
Dr. Hudson says her hospital took those steps months ago.
“We also engaged with surveillance testing for the small number of folks that are in our workforce,” said Hudson. “It chose not to get vaccinated. So, with this new set of regulations, we’ll just be doing some fine-tuning.”
She says Crestwood employees who choose not to be vaccinated will be subject to frequent tests.
“I am not anticipating a huge issue with that and I think that most businesses will find their way through this. So I’m always worried about everything but, but I think that our employees are in a good place.”