Decatur city officials worried about COVID-19 spike

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DECATUR, Ala. – Decatur city leaders held an update Monday morning on COVID-19 pleading with residents to get the vaccine. This COVID-19 briefing is the first one held by Decatur officials since May.

Mayor Tab Bowling opened the meeting saying he hoped when the COVID-19 briefings were suspended, that was the end of the chapter for the city.

Judy Smith with the Alabama Department of Public Health agreed with the Mayor: “We had hoped we had closed the book on this, or at least gotten very close to the last chapter, and unfortunately, that’s not where we are.”

“Cases have been steadily increasing again, so today, here we are to talk about how we can all do our part to stop this trend,” said Mayor Bowling.

12,459 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Morgan County since the beginning of the pandemic, with an additional 2,482 probable cases.

“In the last two weeks, we’ve had an addition 166 in this county that have been diagnosed with COVID,” said Smith. “Between Decatur-Morgan and the Huntsville Hospital system, we went from like 40-45 and over the weekend when we usually send folks home… we have like 52 people in the hospital.”

Decatur-Morgan Hospital CEO Kelli Powers said for several months, the number of patients with COVID-19 remained low at the hospital, but now they are increasing, with the average age at 58. She also said the eight in the Decatur-Morgan hospital now are not vaccinated.

Mayor Bowling quoted 37,761 as the number of people in the county that have completed their vaccine series.

“We have 31% of the population that has had both doses,” said Smith. “Now, keep in mind, that everywhere you go… 70% have not been vaccinated, are not protected, and have the potential to pick up and spread that virus.”

The only way to protect the majority of the population, Smith says, is to get the vaccine. She adds that they won’t stop encouraging it until everyone is safe.

“It’s really hard at this point to know exactly what to say,” said Smith. “My message to you all is, we’re gonna do everything we can to be here for you. We’re gonna stay the course, we’re gonna run the race, we’re going to do whatever we can to be with you. We will do what we need to do to help promote the health of this community.”

Powers reminded citizens that the Delta variant has been highly contagious, and encouraged those between 40-60 years of age to get vaccinated since that age group is who she sees being hospitalized right now.

Officials strongly encouraged residents that have yet to get the vaccine, to do so before the school year starts.

Smith says the least vaccinated group in the state right now are those under 25, which is the same group that will be headed back into the classroom this fall, whether it be grade school, or college.

They are hopeful the vaccines will become eligible for children under 12, but right now the only one approved for kids as young as 12 is the Pfizer vaccine.

While many school systems are already releasing health protocols for the upcoming semester, most are not requiring masks for students or staff.

Mayor Bowling said though school systems don’t prefer meeting virtually, that’s always an option. Smith says she expects masks will be highly recommended for those meeting in person.

“The schools have been monumental in putting up plexiglass and doing sanitation and doing all the things,” she added. “Schools want children back in school. Children need to be back in schools and I believe that they will do everything they can to protect our children.”

She went on to say that parents and families need to cooperate with the schools this coming semester because whatever is decided is in best interest for the students.

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