Cases and hospitalizations up in Madison County, officials urge continued masking and distancing

Huntsville

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – There was a sense of urgency during Tuesday’s Huntsville-Madison County COVID-19 briefing.

Huntsville-Madison County EMA Director Jeff Birdwell put the rise in Madison County’s cases into perspective, saying there were 1,558 new cases in the month of October.

As of November 10, only 1/3 of the way through the month, Madison County has 703 cases already – 45% of October’s monthly total.

Dr. Pam Hudson, Crestwood Hospital CEO said hospitalizations across the state have crossed the 1,200 mark, the highest since July.

108 people are in the hospital for COVID-19 in Madison County alone, with 206 in the hospital across Madison and its five adjoining counties.

Of the Madison County patients, 31 were in the ICU and 17 were on the ventilator.

Hudson said while healthcare workers and first responders are used to working crazy shifts, the pandemic has started to strain them once again, with 15,000 of the state’s total cases being diagnosed in healthcare workers.

She also said despite the amount of effort by medical staff, “there have been too many who cannot survive this.”

And for those who have mild or moderate cases, Hudson has expressed concern about long-term effects.

She added that if COVID-19 makes it into a household, there is a more than 50% chance the virus will pass to other family members.

Both she and Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle emphasized getting back to the basics: Separate, sanitize, avoid risky gatherings, and wear a mask.

Hudson did go into some detail about progress in treatment and vaccines for COVID-19.

She detailed plans for monoclonal antibody therapy (similar to what was given to President Donald Trump): It’s anticipated to be available in limited quantities (mainly for those who are likely to have severe cases) possibly in December. It will be administered as a one-hour, outpatient procedure with an observation period following.

With news of Pfizer’s early report of success with it’s COVID-19 vaccine, she detailed the likely distribution plan locally:

In phase 1, healthcare workers will be the first to receive the vaccine, sometime in January or February with current predictions. In phase 2, sometime in the spring, the vaccine will be administered to high-risk patients. Phase 3, when the vaccine is available to everyone, will likely be next summer.

She also discussed some of the complications of the virus, such as the super low storage temperature, which means Huntsville Hospital is likely going to be getting vaccines from the manufacturer, since they have the capability to store at temperatures of -112 degrees Fahrenheit.

According to Hudson, the vaccine is also being shipped in bottles with 1,000 doses at a time, with a shelf life of hours after being unfrozen, so it will need to be distributed in mass vaccination events at authorized places, such as hospitals across the state.

The current vaccine is also one that will be given to people in multiple doses, so that factors into planning as well, Hudson added.

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