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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Huntsville and Madison County’s COVID-19 team gave an “all favorable” update on the state of COVID-19.

Jeff Birdwell, Huntsville-Madison County EMA Director, Tracy Doughty, Huntsville Hospital President and Chief Operating Officer, and Alabama Public Health District Medical Officer and Pediatrician Dr. Wes Stubblefield spoke at the briefing.

Huntsville-Madison County EMA Director Jeff Birdwell began the meeting with the latest COVID-19 numbers. There have been 833,493 cases of COVID-19 in the state of Alabama. 52,817 of those cases were in Madison County, resulting in 712 deaths during the pandemic. Madison County’s case positivity rate is 4.8%.

Huntsville Hospital President and Chief Operating Officer Tracy Doughty gave the Huntsville Hospital numbers saying “Today’s report is all favorable.” Currently, there are 35 COVID-19 inpatients, with 12 patients in the ICU and 9 of those on a ventilator. Similarly, Crestwood also showed a drop in inpatient cases. There are currently, only 3 COVID-19 cases there, with one person in ICU.

What’s next for COVID? Doughty said this is a question they are asked often.

“Everything that we read and we look at says there will be another surge at some point,” said Doughty. “We have got to protect ourselves and do those things that we know help lessen the spread now. It’s still here so be careful. We are social creatures by nature. We like being out and about. We like going to ball games and to movies and live music. But be safe when you do it. If you are around people and you don’t know their vaccination status, wear your mask. It won’t hurt you.”

Madison County is now considered to be at moderate risk for COVID-19. The number of people getting booster shots continues to grow.

The big update of the day is vaccines for children ages 5 to 11.

In Alabama, 8 percent of COVID cases are in the 5 to 11 age group.

ADPH’s Dr. Wes Stubblefield, a pediatrician, says recent emergency use authorization of the Pfizer vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11 could turn things around.

“Based on projections that every million doses given to children ages five to eleven would prevent 58,000 cases, 226 hospitalizations, and potentially 600,000 new cases over a period extending into next year,” said Dr. Stubblefield.

Though right now there’s no set date to begin administering the vaccine to that age group, Stubblefield said the ADPH is making plans.

“The Alabama Department of Public Health will plan to have this in place by possibly early next week, although we have no specific date, those being administered at the public health departments,” said Stubblefield. “It was reported today that both CVS and Walgreens will be taking appointments for the vaccine starting this weekend. And if you’re you should be encouraged to go to their websites to inquire about availability.”

According to the FDA, the Pfizer vaccine for this age group is a lower dose, 10 micrograms, than the 30 micrograms used to vaccinate those 12 and older

Huntsville Hospital’s John Hunt Park vaccination site says when those doses become available, there’s already a plan to get kids vaccinated.

“I want to make sure that parents don’t have to check children out of school and be respectful of their classroom time. So we’ll do those from two to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” said Tracy Doughty. “As soon as we get the vaccine handy, you’ll see our website update. And you can go on and schedule your time will require a parent and or legal guardian to be with the child.”

As for religious exemptions for children, ADPH says:

“There are currently no COVID-19 vaccine mandates for children in Alabama. The Alabama Department of Public Health only grants religious exemptions to children for school-based purposes and as there are no mandates at this time we are not granting religious exemptions,” said Stubblefield.