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Thursday, 4 March 2021

Madison County officials hold news conference about coronavirus cases in the community

Credit: WAAY ABC Huntsville, AL
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Madison County officials hold news conference about coronavirus cases in the community
Madison County officials hold news conference about coronavirus cases in the community

Madison County officials hold news conference about coronavirus cases in the community

Interrupting regular programming >>> we're interrupting your regular programming this morning with breaking news out of madison county.

>> county and city leaders are going to give the latest on the coronavirus update.

>> jeff birdwell: mayor tommy battle, city of huntsville, and police chief mark mcmurray from the city of huntsville.

You will note we are sitting at least six feet apart and our own best practices to sanitize and separate.

I'll begin with a brief update of where we are currently.

Currently there are 466 confirmed cases in the state of alabama.

39 of those are allocated to madison county.

Additionally, we are aware of reports of a death in madison county associated with covid-19.

The alabama department of public health is currently reviewing this case to determine actual cause.

This is all the information we have on this situation right now but we will provide any updates as we receive them.

With that being said we'll go to dr. pam hudson from crestwood hospital.

>> dr. hudson: good afternoon.

Our communities continue to test.

Yesterday increased the testing by another 600, over 600 cases.

So it's not at all surprise that the number of positives are increasing.

We can expect them to continue to increase as we continue to test.

Public health is tracking all positives and their contacts and issuing quarantine orders as per their policies.

These public health measures are key to reducing spread in our community.

Some good news is that currently the number of hospitalized patients who have tested positive in all our facilities in our community is four.

There are 30 more persons under investigation who are in the hospital pending test results.

So those are nice low numbers and hopefully we will keep those numbers nice and low.

Our supplies ared a quadequateat this point.

I'd like to on behalf of my colleagues thanks all the folks and companies who have come forward with donations and other supply lines.

Very much appreciate it.

I do have some new advisor at least an update on some statements we made earlier about the homemade masks.

While the cdc and the alabama department of public health guidance is that these masks are not useful for the prevention and protection of covid-19, we are seeing an increased number of citizens and even health care workers who just feel better using the homemade masks.

So so long as they are clean and otherwise safe, all our hospitals in this community have left that option up to our health care workers and certainly the public can do as they wish.

Keeping in mind that does not replace social distancing, hand washing or any of those things.

We are in a critical period.

As i mentioned the other day, the next 7 to 14 days, this is our best opportunity to stop the spread and to control -- have some control over our own destiny.

Please remember, as the weather is markedly improved from of this other day, when you're outside you still need to do social distancing at six feet or more, stay home if you're sick, wash your hands, and if you are asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, there's no need for you to contact your health care provider or be tested.

The testing protocols continue to be for those people most at risk so that department of public health can make their determinations.

If you need us, your hospitals are there for you.

Thank you, jeff.

>> jeff birdwell: thank you, dr. we'll go to mayor tommy battle, city of huntsville.

>> mayor battle: thank you.

And dr. hudson, thank you for all the work that crestwood is doing, all the work that huntsville is doing.

I mean, our medical community is step forward and has done a great job for us.

Now, over the weekend, as dr. hudson just said, the next two weeks are going to be your most pivotal weeks in this whole thing.

In the next two weeks we have a chance to blunt the spike that usually comes with a virus like this.

The next two weeks we have the chance to flatten the curve.

So for the next two weeks, our whole motto and the everything we're working for is separate.

We're going to have new hand signals in the city of huntsville.

When you see somebody not separating you can go like this and this and then smile nicely at them and nod like this.

But, that's one of the keys that we have got to do.

I've had many people talk to me about people in big grocery stores or people in big -- some of the bigger stores who are not keeping their social distance.

Now we have something we can do.

You can go like this, and you might even nod.

Then you can go like this.

And that means social distancing.

Social distancing of six feet.

We will have signs out in our city parks over 24 this weekend because it's going to be a beautiful weekend.

We're not saying don't go outside.

Going outside is probably one of the best things you can do.

We are still saying keep your social distancing, wash your hands.

This is the two-week period that we can shine and we can blunt the spike.

We can flatten the curve.

We can defeat this virus.

It's up to us.

So as the mayor of the city of huntsville i want to encourage everybody, enjoy the outside.

Enjoy the sunshine.

The sunshine may be our friend in making sure we get to the end of this.

But as you go out, make sure that you stay separated.

And if you see somebody not separated, do this, nod at them, go like this, smile at them, and i think that we'll be getting our message across to everybody in the city of huntsville and the north alabama area that we need to continue to separate, to wash hands, to make sure that we get through this process.

That's the only message that needs to come out for today.

The next two weeks are critical to us.

And these next two weeks are very important.

Thank you.

>> jeff birdwell: thank you, mayor battle.

Now we'll go to police chief mark mcmurray from the city of huntsville.

>> chief mcmurray: thank you, jeff.

Thank you, mayor.

I think your message is getting out.

Several weeks ago when we first started looking at this come in to huntsville we noticed calls for surface started dropping off and they started getting real slow.

So as school was let out, we had the extra school resource officers and team of supervisors, we had plenty of people on hand.

So i instituted what is i call a liberal go home policy for you guys.

There's not calls for service coming out and i wanted to separate my officers quite a bit.

Go home, spend some time with your kids.

And that way if the flu does -- if the covid hits us or the flu has hit us a little bit, we'll have plenty of resources to draw down on and that has worked.

And we appreciate the drop in the calls for service right now.

In fact, vehicle crashes are down 8%.

And that takes up a large amount of our time.

So without so many people out there, without this socialization, it has allowed us more time to change the way we work as well as the police department to provide that coverage for you.

Ppe was a challenge for us.

Not being medically trained, we didn't have all of the equipment we needed at first.

But our friends and public safety, huntsville fire, came right to our rescue.

They provided protective masks for our first responders, all officers now are equipped with masks, the gloves.

They have sanitizing equipment onboard on each police car.

And so they're able to do their job as safely as they can.

We have a fully functional operational plan.

A lot of citizens don't know this, but we work with the madison county sheriff's department and the city of madison police department.

All three of our agencies are a leah certified.

They require we have an all hazards plan on deck at all times.

So we share this plan and sheriff turner, chief jernigan and i talk every single day about what's going on and what do you need?

And you know we talk about best plans.

So together we've instituted a lot of the exact same changes where we have reduced all our training, we stopped roll calls.

Any event where police officers are going to get together, we don't allow them to congregate anymore.

So you won't see all of those police cars at the doughnut shops anymore.

You will probably notice that late at night.

But you know, our awards ceremony, our police officer memorial ceremony, things like that have all been canceled.

We don't want the cops to congregate anymore.

So we don't allow them to come together for roll call.

Everything is done electronically.

Even my staff meetings with my commanders now, we do that teleconference.

So that's been something we've been able to work through and separate.

But these -- as the mayor was saying, staying separate has helped a lot.

Not just with police functions but it will reduce the spread of this.

So if you can't socially distance yourself in this pretty weather, practice physical distancing.

Okay?

If you just got to have a purple cup, fine.

Just don't share it with anybody.

And stay six foot away from your neighbor.

There you go.

If you go out to a public park this weekend or you need a purple cup, you want to go to entertainment district, stay six foot away.

Don't reach down and pet your neighbor's dog every time it comes up to you in the park.

You have to get that physical distance at all times and you can stop this spread.

So i think the message is getting out there.

Finally, let me say thank you to the news media.

What a tremendouse asset you've been.

You don't go to the huntsville police department website for resources.

Okay?

Go to one of these news media websites and you will find the most up to date, one-stop shopping site that i've ever seen.

Right now you're texting your news editors telling them everything we're saying and it's going straight to these websites.

So if you want to know anything about covid-19 resources, alabama department of health, what -- medical staff, you're doing a tremendous job for us as first responders.

So i just thank you.

And thank you, huntsville, for stepping up.

Did you know that hudsonal fa is one of the leaders in the country on research.

They're stepping up.

Our local breureries, i wanted to say distilleries, but they're doing it, too.

They're changing over from the drinking product to sanitizing product so that our first responders have small containers of sanitizers in their cars.

So if we smell a little bit like whiskey or beer, it's not because we've been drinking.

Okay?

I just want to warn you about that.

It's some of our local companies stepping up to help us.

So what a great city you are, huntsville.

Thank you so much for that.

And there is plenty of food and supplies in all of our stores.

If you feel the need to rush in and hoard, there's no need to.

As quick as they can stock it every night, there's plenty things there.

We're getting no complaints except when the stores are limiting how many people can come into the store.

Now, they do that on purpose.

They do that because we've asked them to.

Don't crowd the inside of the stores because that's a violation of our six-foot rule.

They're limiting people in.

That's for your safety.

There is plenty of food.

I can assure you.

So use this time to sit at home.

Get on a free app called next door or called neighbors and join your local neighborhood community watch.

Electronically, you can actually keep up with your neighbor.

You can learn your neighbor.

And you can reduce crime in your neighborhood because we watch those apps and we can help you watch your neighbor's property and your property and it's a great way to get to know your neighbors.

Thank you so much.

Thank you, jeff.

>> jeff birdwell: thank you, chief.

Thank you for watching today.

We will be back tomorrow at noon with another daily briefing.

Until then, critical updates will be posted to the city of huntsville's covid-19 web page as well as the websites of our other partners here today.

Stay safe.

Stay separate.

And remember to sanitize.

At this point we'll open it up for questions.

Again, we ask that as you come to the mic please state -- identify yourself and who you're affiliated with.

And we'll allow one question and a follow-up.

>> chris joseph, waff, mr. birdwell, what is the timeline for that report of the death in madison county?

>> jeff birdwell: yeah, we don't have a timeline at this point.

You know, once we receive those updates from adph we will immediately get that o out.

>> mayor battle, this is for you.

Unfortunately it seems like the news is getting more and more serious.

A report in madison county, a death in jackson county, birmingham, issuing a shelter in place.

At what point will huntsville issue a shelter in place, what is the game plan for that?

>> mayor battle: we'll keep monitoring.

We're going to follow the cdc guidelines.

We're going to follow the alabama department of public health.

We'll do everything that we do, we'll do in conjunction with both the alabama department of health, cdc, and with our local health organizations.

We talk on a daily basis and we will continue to monitor.

>> sydney martin with channel 31.

My question is for chief.

Can you talk about your officers.

Tear coming to work every day, obviously not congregating but interacting with the public.

Kind of the mood around the department right now and them having to go home to their families after interacting with people.

>> chief mcmurray: thank you, sydney, for asking about them.

It is a little different for them because this is something they're not really used to practicing with.

And i think the preventive measures we're encouraging our officers to do has taken great -- it's worked.

We've had some scares where we tested a few officers.

We had one that had type a flu.

We have a stomach bug going around two different areas of the department.

But i mean, that's normal with about 650 employees right now.

So we keep them separate.

And it's been working out great.

So the few little scares we had and several of them have gone down and gone through the line to be tested down at john hunt park.

It's all come back negative.

So far we do not have any instances that affect the police department.

We are expecting it, just like all over the country.

We're preparing for that.

But right now they're all doing very good.

They're all coming to work.

Blue flu is something that happens around the country when this kind of thing where officers will call in sick.

It's not happening here.

They're all coming to work.

Ive had to make them go home and take some time with their family.

>> have you all had any issues with businesses not following this health order to close and not have people inside or not having any issues with the social distancing?

>> chief mcmurray: not intentionally.

I think a few of them didn't know the rule dropped down so low.

You know, it started out in groups of 300 and then 100 and then 80 and now 30 and down to 10.

And they're not keeping up with the latest.

But when we went to them and told them that, they immediately complied, apologized and they disbanded.

So it does work.

The distancing is taking place.

Luckily the community is very c cooperative.

>> just to clarify, have any citations been issued?

>> chief mcmurray: no, they have not.

>> this is for dr. hudson.

This is maybe familiar ground but i think it might be helpful given what the mayor just said.

Can you talk about protocol, behavior by the public when somebody has gotten a test, what they should do while they're awaiting a result and what that person, if they're in a household with somebody, what those other people should do while they're await that result?

Can you speak to that first?

And i've got a follow up.

>> dr. hudson: that's a great question.

If you are tested you really have to assume that you're positive immediately.

And go home and self-isolate.

It's not too much different than the actual order for quarantine that will come eventually if you did test positive.

And so that self-isolation, staying away from your family is just like anybody else, that six-foot rule is still there.

So going home and continuing those measures of good hand washing, if you have the luxury of being able to get even further than six feet apart, that's great.

And so there's really not much difference between somebody who's sick and hasn't been tested, they should be doing those things.

Somebody who is sick and has been tested, same approach.

And someone who is then in a public health quarantine, not a whole lot of difference between the two.

>> the folks in the household with the tested person, do they live their normal lives or do they behave differently also?

>> dr. hudson: they would -- normal for our covid environment.

Six feet apart, they should not go out if they're sick.

They should be tested if they're sick but mostly you're waiting on that report back on the index case in the household.

So they do the same things.

And it is my understanding that when the quarantine orders occur, they are also doing -- part of what takes time is that the public health officers are doing contact investigation and then they will issue isolation orders for perhaps more than just the person that got tested.

>> just one follow up.

You mentioned there was a good bit of testing done locally yesterday.

How do we read that?

Does that mean you're finding more symptomatic people?

You mentioned a minute ago that mildly symptomatic may not be necessary to test.

When you see that kind of volume of testing is that telling you you've got more people with more symptoms and what do you make of that model going forward?

>> dr. hudson: i think the increase in the number of tests are -- is directly related to the availability of the tests.

Initially we did not have the fever and flu clinic in the john hunt site so patients were accessing testing directly through their primary care physician at one at a time, or not getting tested at all.

And the test requirements are at least through the department of public health, have now been pretty strictly reduced but initially they still had some requirements.

First of all, you should be symptomatic, not just a little bit sick but more than -- more than a mild concern.

So i think the positives are the result of more testing.

And that's been the situation in almost every community where that's happened.

>> sorry.

On just a very fine point about symptomatic or mildly symptomatic.

When you talk about the state standard, how symptomatic should someone be, do you think?

>> dr. hudson: that's very subjective.

If you have no symptoms, that one is easy.

But if you have something that you ordinarily would not seek care for, if you don't have a fever, for example, i mean, those are typical hallmarks of covid, not exclusive but it comes down to good judgment.

>> thank you.

>> jeff birdwell: next question.

>> dr. hudson, paul gattis from al.com.

Obviously there's a lot of focus on the number of positive tests for the state and the number of positive tests for madison county.

I'm just kind of wondering, are there almost two numbers to be keeping your eye on at this point?

The number of people who test positive, also the number that require hospitalization, because that is -- seems like that's the primary concern in getting through this is hospitals dealing with it.

>> dr. hudson: i believe that you're right on target with your identification that there are multiple types of numbers that you can look at.

I'm aware of a number of different models being used and the -- all kinds of numbers get plugged into that to come up with predictions.

But for our community the burden on the health care system is what we are trying to flatten.

The -- there will be people that get very sick with this.

But there will be many, many, many more who are not very sick with it and we're trying to flatten that because you have a really good health care system in this community.

We need to try to make sure we don't overwhelm it so that everybody gets the care that they need and the public health measures of hand washing, social distancing, those are our weapons in this.

Isolating positive cases or presumptive positive.

That's why when you test or just because you are waiting for the results doesn't mean that you don't self-isolate.

If you were sick enough to be tested you're sick enough to isolate.

>> and just to follow up on that.

I think madison county's numbers have almost doubled since the first report yesterday mor morning.

When you see those numbers on a sharp increase, is there an expectation that there's going to be more, that's going the require hospitalization or is there any connection between a rise in positives around a rise in hospitalizations?

>> dr. hudson: so we all hope that we don't see a rise.

I think the -- most of us are looking at cities and communities around the country and preparing for the kinds of experience that they have had.

That's just a realistic approach if you're trying to protect the health of our communities.

>> jeff birdwell: all right.

This will conclude this press conference.

Thank you for coming.

>>> you just heard the update there from top leaders in madison county on the impacts and response to the coronavirus here.

I want to update you quickly, too, because we have from the alabama department of public health, 472 cases now rt roed.

That is up since our midday newscast.

>> by six.

>> by six.

That's right.

And also we just heard officials there in that meeting, they say that they are aware of a death related to coronavirus in madison county.

However, if you look at this site, that dashboard from the alabama department of public health they're still only citing one coronavirus-linked death.

That's in jackson county.

So we did get that new update on a possible death related to coronavirus here in madison county.

They don't have any further information.

We are working to gather that for you at this time.

>> so what you're seeing is the stream of news happening right before your eyes.

We're getting that update from the county leaders, then that's being sent up to the state, to the state department of public health.

They're going to review that.

We'll be updating those numbers.

That dashboard is coming up like faster and faster with new numbers.

What we're trying to do is keep up with them as well and pass them along to you as quickly as possible.

We'll keep doing that.

The other thing, too, marie, that we heard today and this is critical.

This is from dr. pam hudson.

She says, we're at very critical point right now.

7 to 14 days, really right now, folks, is our best opportunity to stop the spread and control our own destiny.

Those are her words.

She also says from the huntsville area, from just yesterday alone, 600 cases of testing from yesterday.

She did say that there was some good news.

Four people that are in the hospital right now have tested positive.

Only four, she says.

40 tests are now pending.

When it comes to being out and we're practicing social distancing and we're trying to sanitize and trying to separate, you heard mayor tommy battle of huntsville saying, we're trying to do, again, flatten the curve over the next two weeks.

The best practice is, and he even bre brought up this hand signal.

If you see somebody that's not practicing social distancing, do this.

Hold your hands together.

You're going to join me in this, aren't you?

>> i am.

>> hold your hands together, kind of smile, and separate your hands.

Simple.

We can all do that, right?

>> a nice reminder because the weather is so nice out there.

People are wanting to get out.

They may have cabin fever.

We also heard from huntsville's police chief.

He says that calls are down, traffic crashes are down because a lot of you are staying home.

Not as many people on the roads.

He also gave credit to huntsville fire and rescue for giving them some assistance with some of that protection.

That they needed to continue to serve our community.

>> okay.

Two big news conferences coming your way this afternoon.

At 1:00 limestone county officials will be speaking.

We'll bring that to you live.

And at 4:00 we're going to hear from governor kay ivy and state superintendent of education dr. kay mackey to talk about whether or not the school year will be extended.

We'll bring both of those news conferences to you.

Again at 1:00.

Stay with us both here at waay 31 news and waaytv.com.

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