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SHEFFIELD, Ala. — It was a day of celebration and festivities to honor working people, Labor Day. But in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, with even more contagious variants, Helen Keller Hospital President Kyle Buchanan believes more lives could be negatively impacted in the weeks following the holiday.

“We’ve asked people to continue to keep those mantras in mind, masking, of course, vaccination,” Buchanan said. “There are safe ways that we can enjoy time with family and we just hope that that occurred more often than not over the weekend.”

With a total of 12 COVID-positive deaths, Buchanan said last week was the second deadliest week the hospital has seen during the pandemic since January when 19 deaths were reported in a seven-day period.

Buchanan added that even more people died over the weekend. “I want to say we had four more over Labor Day weekend, so a tremendous amount of death; it’s been really tough for our staff to handle,” he said.

Tuesday at noon, Helen Keller Hospital participated in a statewide moment of silence to honor those who have lost their lives to the virus.

Buchanan said community behavior, both on personal and professional levels, is close to normal, but when holiday gatherings are thrown into the mix, he said it creates the perfect recipe for the current environment.

“Without some pretty drastic changes in either our activity level within the community, our protections, our vaccination rates, masks, social distancing, quite frankly, we can’t expect for the COVID community case levels to change,” Buchanan said.

Buchanan said the resources are readily available to slow the spread, but added more people need to put those practices into place to get past the surge.