Holiday surge coming, Morgan County officials urge continued masking and distancing


DECATUR, Ala. — Officials noted a surge in hospitalizations statewide since October 2020 during Monday’s COVID-19 update.

Michael Glenn from the Alabama Department of Public Health said 959 people were hospitalized on Halloween, with that number nearly doubling to 1,500 by Thanksgiving (factoring in all the fall festivals and trick or treating), and further increasing to 2,403 by Christmas (factoring in Thanksgiving celebrations), climbing to 2,885 Monday (the early start of Christmas celebration results).

Decatur-Morgan Hospital President Kelli Powers noted that with increased positivity rates in Morgan County, that surge may be in the community already – it just hasn’t hit hospitals yet.

That was one of her biggest concerns – while the number of positive COVID-19 inpatients decreased to 79, with 12 in the ICU, 4 on ventilators, she said the decrease was due to an increased death rate.

In addition, City Council President Jacob Ladner, filling in for Mayor Tab Bowling, said with a positivity rate between 57 and 59 percent over the last 14 days (Glenn said it’s the fifth-highest in Alabama), nearly three out of every five people testing for COVID-19 will test positive in Morgan County.

Bowling, who tested positive for COVID-19 last week was in good spirits when he received a monoclonal antibody infusion and will be working from home, attending all scheduled meetings virtually.

Bowling encouraged those who have recovered from the virus to donate blood and help keep the monoclonal antibody supply up.

Power confirmed she’s seen a lot of success with the treatment keeping people out of the hospital and allowing them to recover at home.

Anyone who tests positive should call their doctor to see if they qualify and schedule the outpatient procedure.

Powers said vaccination clinics are planned on a weekly basis for staff at Athens-Limestone Hospital and Decatur-Morgan staff, as well as healthcare workers statewide, are encouraged to work with their department heads to get vaccinated from either county public health departments or local pharmacies

159 doses were administered to staff last week, and booster clinics are scheduled the week of Jan. 6 and Jan. 12 for Athens-Limestone staff.

The hospital received 1,800 doses initially and Powers said 900 have already been given out, with plans to have the entire staff vaccinated by the end of January.

However, Powers had a word of caution for those who have already been vaccinated – they still need to wear masks and distance as it takes time for immunity to build up to COVID-19. She suggested giving it 18 days before somebody could be considered immune.

Because of the time it takes for major events to show up in the COVID-19 numbers, Glenn cautioned the state hasn’t likely seen the worst of the Christmas holiday gatherings yet.

Glenn closed with a reminder to continue masking, staying separated, and to assume you’re positive and stay completely home (no runs to the grocery store or anywhere) if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or are waiting for a test result.

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