COVID-19 testing for Huntsville-area homeless community to begin this week

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Huntsville Hospital CEO David Spillers says COVID-19 testing for the homeless community will begin later this week.

“We’ve got a coordinated effort going on to do that. We’re going to go out, we’ve got a way to obviously identify, track and go back and follow up with people who might test positive,” Spillers said. “We want to make sure that our homeless community is taken care of and I think we have a well thought out process.”

Huntsville City Administrator John Hamilton said Huntsville Hospital and Thrive are helping execute free testing to Huntsville-are homeless communities. NACH, FirstStop, Downtown Rescue Mission are helping coordinate the effort.

Testing for homeless communities in Madison is also possible if a need is identified.

Only people who exhibit symptoms will be tested. The testing effort is also designed to educate the community on COVID-19.

Testing will begin Friday, April 10 at First Stop, 206 Stokes St., from 9 a.m. to noon. Testing will resume at First Stop Monday.

Huntsville Hospital’s Spillers said there are 11 inpatients in Madison County hospitals with COVID-19 and 15 more in the North Alabama region. He said of that number, five or six patients are on ventilators.

Specialists will be heading to Athens Hospital to offer help after the hospital announced four employees tested positive for the virus. Spillers said Crestwood Medical Center has two inpatients that have tested positive, a third that is likely positive, and about five patients under investigation — hospitalized awaiting test results.

As part of Huntsville Hospital’s planning for a potential surge in patients, it is building a database of people with medical expertise who would be willing to volunteer if the need arises. To add your name to the list, visit the Huntsville Hospital website or call 256-817-1111.

Madison Mayor Paul Finley reminded the community that city hall remains open, but all services are available online or over the phone. He said they continue to field calls from concerned citizens about businesses that remain open.

“We have a primary point of contact that we give that to. They investigate via the revenue department or legal to see whats needed, and then we go back out and talk to the respective business, or in essence, maybe a hotspot area,” Finley said. “We’ve been very successful in doing that. In almost every instance, again, it’s helping some folks who call in who may be concerned to follow up and verify that respective businesses are doing what they should be doing.

“We continue to find that they are, we continue to be able to give them additional pieces of information. And lastly, a lot of the big box stores you’ve seen, as they recognize that they would be open, they have made the changes that are needed. And a lot of that comes from the guidance that our folks were able to give them.”

Spillers said Huntsville Hospital currently has the ability to test more patients than it’s seeing. He said they performed 300 COVID-19 tests system-wide on Tuesday .

“Turn around now that we have kind of centralized our lab processing to our more traditional organizations we use, we have in-house ability now to do a substantial number of tests every single day. Those get prioritized for our employees and our patients. Our patients first, our employees second,” said Spillers.

“At this point, no one should be waiting more than 48 hours for a result. Most of those results should be about 24 hours that we’re testing. The turnaround problems that we had early on, using some of the national labs that got inundated, seemed to have gone away.”

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