State, local healthcare leaders update Marshall County residents on COVID-19


MARSHALL COUNTY, Ala.- Marshall County is the only county on Sand Mountain still considered “very high risk” by the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH).

While numbers seem to be slowing there, the high number of cases is causing problems for the hospitals.

State and local healthcare leaders discussed how hospitals are still being impacted by COVID-19.

“The last four weeks have been challenging for us. There were many days that we had reached capacity which meant that we didn’t have any beds for patients to come to,” explained Marshall Medical Centers chief nursing officer Kathy Woodruff.

Reaching capacity is problematic for the other patients suffering from heart attacks, strokes, strokes, car crashes, and other health emergencies.

Marshall Medical Centers has tested 2,900 people since March.

As of Thursday, 28 people have died from COVID-19 in Marshall County. There is one additional probable death, according to the ADPH.

“29 people out of 90 something thousand people sure not a lot but if it’s your love one, it’s a whole bunch,” said Marshall Medical Centers North emergency department medical director Dr. Victor Sparks.

“Fear can be a good thing because it teaches us to do what we need to do. We don’t want to have paralyzed fear but we want to have enough fear that we do what’s right,” said Smith.

ADPH’s Judy Smith told WHNT News 19 a vaccine is in the works, but until then, the best treatment is “MDS”.

“Masks, distance, and sanitize,” said Smith.

Sparks said people can consider the coronavirus pandemic good practice for future pandemics, similar to how the Tuberculosis and Polio were learning experiences for the current crisis.

“There will be a vaccine, but as nature will have it there will be another pandemic, but this could be practice for the next one that could be more serious thatn what we’re going through…this is a good practice run to follow rules, to listen to good data and make decisions based on that data,” said Sparks.

During Thursday’s press briefing, Smith said compliance of Governor Kay Ivey’s safer at home order is a huge issue.

“There are some people that still actually believe it’s a hoax. I will tell you, it’s not a hoax to those folks that have died. It’s not a hoax for those that have been in the hospital for two months or more. It’s not a hoax when your loved one gets put on a respirator,” explained Smith.

She added that the biggest issues hospitals are dealing with right now is getting reagents for testing.

“It was very hard on national level for folks to keep up with demands for the reagents. Hopefully that’s going to get better soon, but the biggest impact it to folks has been the delay for getting their test results,” said Smith.

Smith told WHNT News 19 that if someone is exposed to COVID-19, they should wait at least three or four days before being tested, so the virus can be detected.

Smith explained the hospital system will stop doing elective surgeries once again if the numbers grow out of control again.

Smith explained that the ADPH currently has 400 contact tracers.

The department is now working now with a medical vendor group to get more rapid tests so they can also start doing on-the-spot contact tracing.

Smith said the current nasal swab tests are the most accurate, but it is possible to get false results.

“In the currently approved rapid tests, if you’re positive, the probability that you’re positive is true. However if you’re negative, there’s a 20% error rate, which means that two out of every 10 people potentially may get a false negative,” said Smith.

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