HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The Huntsville-area COVID-19 briefing Wednesday included news that the two-week trendline of case rates in Madison County has been flat for a month. Overall, Madison County has seen just under 7,000 cases since March.
Case rates have been around 40 a day over the past two weeks, but officials are still wary about Labor Day.
Monday, a week after Labor Day, saw the largest test demand here since July. Hospital cases tend to show up 14-21 days after exposure. Any signs of a Labor Day spike are expected to appear in hospital figures withing the next week to 10 days.
Huntsville Hospital CEO David Spillers is also concerned about the effect flu season can have on the hospitals.
“I do want to encourage everybody to start thinking about getting your flu shot. Those will be available soon. It’s going to be very hard if people don’t get the flu shot and do get the flu,” Spillers said. “When they show up at any health care facility, we’re going to assume you have COVID until we know you don’t have COVID. So it will use up a lot of tests, take up a lot of your time, you’ll have to be quarantined, etc., etc. My best advice is to get the flu shot.”
Spillers said COVID-19 hospitalizations across the Huntsville Hospital system are flat with about 100 patients currently. He said he’d like that number to be cut in half.
A chart from the Alabama Department of Public Health shows hospitalizations are down statewide. A month ago, there were 1,300 COVID-19 patients in the state. Today there are 760 patients statewide.
The federal government says it is close to making a vaccine for COVID-19 widely available in 2021 and Alabama and Madison County officials are beginning preparations for providing vaccines in Alabama.
“We’ve got a large number of people from Madison County on a call tomorrow,” Spillers said. “We’re going to be working with the state and probably over the next, I’d say within two weeks we’ll have a good plan. Long before the vaccine’s here, we’ll have a good plan not only for how we’re going to distribute, who we’re going to test, some idea of how many we think we might get, those types of things.”
Spillers said larger hospitals will likely have to aid their neighbors
“Since we don’t know which vaccine is going to be on the market first, and we don’t know the requirements, we don’t know how we’re going to distribute it yet,” Spillers said. “Some vaccines that are gonna come out they’re going to require some refrigeration and storage that is just not readily available. So we’re going to have to manage where we keep the vaccine while we’re getting people vaccinated.
Vaccine production will take time, so who’s first in line?
“People will understand that we’re going to allocate the vaccine to the people who are most risk first. And that is going to be your frontline healthcare workers, your ems, we just talked about the area that’s the highest percentage of deaths, nursing homes and assisted living, we’ve got to vaccinate those people first,” Spillers said.
Testing took time to smooth out, how will the vaccine rollout work?
“I think the right way to do is to coordinate it through the state so that we’re consistent in how we deliver the vaccine throughout the state and I think this next couple or three weeks will determine,” Spillers said.
CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield told congress today if a vaccine is available in 2020 it would be in limited supply. He said he expects the vaccine would be widely available in spring or summer 2021.