Senate Bill 5 aims to take power away from county health officers and put some decisions into the hands of elected officials. This..
Huntsville/Madison County coronavirus news conference for 4/8/2021
And we interrupt this programming for a briefing on the covid fight and pandemic out of madison county.
Let's listen into madison county leaders being led right now from muscle mayor battle.
And emergency response agencies will bring you this briefing on our community's response to covid-19.
Our speakers today will be tracy doughty from huntsville hospital and mayor tommy battle from the city of huntsville.
At this point i will give the numbers as well as some expanded information that's pertinent to the public for covid.
Currently, there are 403,175 confirmed cases in alabama.
29,000, 234 confirmed cases in madison county having resulted in 831 confirmed deaths in madison county.
Looking at the hospital numbers countywide, now this includes the huntsville hospital system and crest wood.
There are 35 inpatients, eight of thousands are in the icu and four are on ventilators.
There's been a lot of questions related to the status of the vaccine administration in the county.
So currently, as of today, there have been 93,812 first doses administered in madison county which represents 31% of the population over the age of 16 in madison county.
On the other side of that, so far 55,194 have received their second dose so, again, also a lot of questions on how can you get the vaccine, so there's basically three categories or three areas.
Obviously there's huntsville hospital and their administration.
Just go to huntsvillehospital.org and you'll be able to sign up to get the vaccine there.
The other is madison county health department.
The webs there is alcovidvaccine.gov.
Again, you can go there to sign up to get the vaccine administered through the madison county health department.
The rest kind of fit in other categories, so to speak.
Those are the places that are going through the federal programs as well as some others that are receiving vaccine from the state.
So what we r we recommend is goo vaccinefinder.org and from there you will be able to put in your zip code and the amount of miles that you're willing to travel to receive a vaccine and it will populate a map listing all of those and the type of vaccines that they have available.
So we recommend that.
Just one final note, talked to the health department this morning and at madison county health department, from time to time, there are available appointments that come open because some that are scheduled do not show up.
So what they are recommending for people to do is if you will call mid morning or late afternoon to check on availability, the number to call is 256-582-3174.
That number again is 256-582-3174.
So i think at this point we'll go to our first speaker, mr. tracy doughty from huntsville hospital.
Tracy doughty: thank you, sir.
It's a pleasure.
Thank you, sir, it's a pleasure being here.
From a huntsville hospital's perspective, everything is going well as it comes to covid-19.
If you look at our hospital in madison county, we have 24 inpatients and 22 of those are downtown.
Two are in madison and we have five in the icu.
As you remember our peak was about 280 patients in the hospital.
So we think we're doing very well as a community and as a hospital.
If you look at our positivity rate, everything coming in through the labs in madison county, the peak is about 15% and as of yesterday, we're about 6% over the last trailing seven days which is another great indicator for us.
Back to our inpatients, if you look at the system over the last several months, the peak was about 500 inpatients.
As mr. birdwell said earlier, there's about 35 in the hospital now.
That's definitely a good number to look at.
Moving to vaccines, so across our system and across north alabama, we're busy putting shots in arms. so if you look at our -- in the system, we've done about 135,000 vaccines.
That's first and second doses.
And about 80,000 of those are in madison county.
Our main location here in madison county is at john hunt park.
They're very busy over there, doing about 3,000 vaccines per day.
And we plan to almost double that in the coming weeks working with the state to get additional vaccines.
We're very excited about it.
We think the more shots in arms we can get done, the better it is for everybody.
To help expedite this, we have a new online app or portal coming online probably monday.
It's in test mode now, where individuals can go on and sign themselves up.
No call needed to the hospital.
So the thought process is you would go in, pick a date, time out of your schedule, put some information in.
There's no calling back and forth.
What's been hindering us getting more vaccines on is the calls back and forth.
We call, we miss the person, they call us back, and they get a different operator.
So we developed an online portal where it takes the middleman out of that.
People who are on the waiting list will still have operators working that list.
We have about 50,000 people on that list.
We don't think that number is that much, probably closer to 40,000 who haven't received the vaccine.
But we'll still have some operators working that list if you signed up online previous to the online portal.
But we will encourage everybody to go back to the online portal and sign up and pick your own time and date out.
We have some outreach clinics going on in the next couple weeks.
We just left the bob harrison center working with the team there to develop a plan to get vaccines out there next week.
And, also, we'll be at oakwood university church in the upcoming weeks to do vaccines there.
So we're excited to partner with some of our community partners to give vaccines out and help us get to people who have transportation issues or other reasons they can't get to john hunt park.
Masks, we get a lot of questions about masking and what do we plan to do when april 9th gets here.
Our policies won't change.
So employees will still wear masks.
Physicians will still wear masks.
Visitors will still wear masks.
So there's no changes when it comes to that.
We'll still have greeters and security officers at the doors.
If somebody didn't have a mask, we'll give them one.
So we plan to keep that in place and continue to watch our numbers.
We want to give out more vaccines in the community before we change that.
And we'll definitely follow the state and the city's lead and we'll partner together to do those things at the same time.
And visitation, and so not really many visitation changes.
About you if you are covid-positive, you can no the have a visitor unless it is end of life or special circumstances.
Everyone else, you can have two visitors or two care givers.
We don't want them switching out all day long, but you can have two visitors.
We get that question quite a bit.
That policy can be found on our website as well.
That concludes my portion.
Thank you, sir.
Mr. birdwell: thank you, tracy.
Now, we'll go to mayor tommy battle from the city of huntsville.
Mayor battle: thank you.
And i think one of the first things we always have to say is thank you to our health care providers.
We have had a wonderful group of health care providers that have gotten us through this last year and a little bit over a year.
And their work has been outstanding and each of us should appreciate each of them for the job that they have done.
Our numbers are the lowest i think we've seen in a long, long while, since a year ago.
We still have to do the same thing that we've done to get to us this stage, separate, sanitize, wear a mask, and make sure you get vaccinated.
If you will go get vaccinated, it will take us a long way from down the road so that we can be looking at this in the rearview mirror by this summer.
As many people have said, let's make sure we continue to do what got us to this place.
Let's not spike the ball on the 5-yard line and not get over the goal line.
Let's make sure we still stay separated and sanitized and masked in a situation where you can't control your environment within three feet.
And if you do that, you know, hopefully this summer, early summer, we'll be looking at this in the rearview mirror and be back to what i would call our new normal.
Easter and spring break is going to be a telltale sign with us.
Spring break was last week.
Easter was last weekend.
Probably end of next week, if we some spike.
But if we don't see much of a spike, then we know we're on the right course and on the right track.
The city policy is going to be if you have interaction, if our employees are going to be interacting with the public or the public interacting with our employees, we would ask that you wear a mask.
There are several exceptions, practical necessity for exercise, for good communication, exceptions for central job functions in this.
But we're going to continue to do what we've been doing.
We're going to ask you to wear a mask, if you interact with other people here at city hall, we will do that as we watch the numbers.
You know, i expect this to be a 30, 45-day period and we'll be working with our health care providers and our partners throughout this area from alabama department of public health and our partners that are in both hospitals and the medical society to get to the end of this road.
Anybody who is like me, there's a fatigue.
You're tired of wearing masks.
You're tired of having to stay separated.
You're tired of not being able to hug somebody.
So i think that our whole society is ready to put this in the rearview mirror.
If we stick with it a couple more weeks, i think that our policy is going to work out very well and we will be looking at this in the rearview mirror.
So the positive message of today is hang in there for a couple more weeks with us and we think we'll be looking back at this whole pandemic for in the near future.
Thank you, mr. birdwell.
Mr. birdwell: thank you, mayor battle.
And thank you for watching today.
In the future, we will schedule more briefings as the need arises.
As always, continue then, continue to monitor city of huntsville's covid-19 web page as well as the websites of our partners here today for critical updates.
Until then, stay safe.
Stay separate, and remember to sanitize.
At this point, we'll take questions.
As always, as you come the to mic, please identify yourself and who you are affiliated with.
Mr. spillers a couple of weeks ago talked about ideally while huntsville hospital continues its vaccination efforts, you will see medical offices and people can go to their regular physician and get access that way.
I wonder what you're seeing in terms of distribution.
Is that beginning to trickle into the huntsville medical community or if you have any visibility on that, when people might expect that?
Is that a proposal you think makes sense?
Mr. birdwell: yes, i think it makes sense.
The more entry points we have for vaccines, the better for everyone.
We are starting to see physician offices get vaccines.
As time goes on, we think in about a month or so, it will be more widely available to many physician offices in town.
But we do think it's an important part of the vaccination process.
Let me add to that, there are 18 facilities that have been identified in the county, madison county, that are administering the vaccine.
And so for people, they can obviously go to the alabama department of public health's website.
They have a list of those but also bamatracker.com.
If you go into madison county specific lists those as well.
For the mayor, we're getting to this intersection of public health's advisory versus what's required.
What we've seen in the past are store employees being asked to uphold a store's policy which is a little bit outside their daily job.
I wonder what you would say to the public about interactions going forward with businesses that want to ask people to keep a mask on while they're in the store, whatever the service facility is.
What would you tell the people about how to handle that?
Mayor battle: you know, this really is down to individual choice.
Each individual has a choice whether to wear a mask or not.
But each business has a choice also of either requiring a mask or not requiring a mask.
If you enter a store that requires masks, we would ask that you honor that store's policy.
If you choose not to shop at that store, you can leave if you don't want to wear a mask.
I think you're going to see many of the restaurants, food establishments, which still have masks for a little while because they're trying to get the public's trust back.
They're trying to make the public feel safe going out to eat and that they're not going to care about anything more than a full stomach and i think that's something that's very important for us right now.
Everything has an individual choice and you have a right to have that individual choice.
But that business also has the same right to have that individual choice, also.
And if they feel like that's in the best interest of their customers and their clients, then they have every full right to either require masking or not require masking.
Hey, mayor battle.
Like brian mentioned with restaurants a lot of them are still going to be having masking.
Why is it important that people are respectful of wishes, especially if they're either going to the hospital or even coming to city hall?
Why should they really make sure they are wearing a mask, even though they don't have to after 5:00 p.m.
Mayor battle: i think the biggest -- the biggest point that we've got to look at is that we're trying to make sure that we have carried this through to the furthest extent that we can so that we're really not looking at it once we hit this summer, that we're done.
That enough people have been vaccinated, enough people have joined the herd and had the virus and that we don't have any more deaths.
When you really get down to it, it gets down to deaths of citizens and illnesses that are very, in some cases, we're seeing the illness that comes from covid-19 being a long lasting illness.
So we're trying to protect our public.
And i think that's the most important thing.
I will be looking for businesses that protect the public, that protect the public from -- and also protect their employees because that's -- if we do that, it will be a much shorter time that we'll have under all these masking and sanitizing and all the other rules that we have, that we'll be able to go back to normal.
And i think that's the biggest thing.
We're all looking for a time to go back to normal.
And what do you think we're going to see come june, july, a couple months from now?
What do you hope to see is going on in huntsville?
Mayor battle: i think there's a large pent-up demand out there for people to get back together.
When they start feeling comfortable with getting back together, i think you will see big, big groups getting back together, big events happening.
I think you will see people who have been very patient and very kind through this whole process.
But they're ready to get out and ready to enjoy their fellow citizen and i think that's what we're going to see once we come out of this, which to me will be may, june, july time period.
You're going to see a lot of activity.
Mr. doughty, we're hearing the u.k. strain is becoming the predominant strain across the country.
In your hospital are you seeing cases of folks that have a variant strain and have you noticed any condition issues?
We've read that it's potentially more deadly, it's potentially more acute, certainly more contagious.
I'm wondering if you are seeing any effects to that in the huntsville hospital, in your system at this point?
Tracy doughty: currently our numbers are remaining low so we're not sure about the variants because that's a state function.
We don't check for variants with our current system.
So that's a state function.
I wouldn't be surprised with people traveling there are variants in our community.
But as far as being able to definitively say so, i can't say yes or no.
Mr. birdwell: at this point, we'll conclude the press conference.
Thank you for coming.
And that wraps up what appears to be one of the final madison county covid updates from area leaders.
Tracy doughty if huntsville hospital kicked things off for us this afternoon.
He said things are going well from the hospital's standpoint.
35 inpatients systemwide through the huntsville hospital system.
Much lower than the peak which we saw around 500 inpatients systemwide.
He said 80,000 vaccines have been administered in madison county alone.
And john hunt park, their biggest vaccination clinic is averaging about 3,000 vaccinations a day.
He said they are launching a new online portal on monday to allow you to schedule your vaccine appointment.
This online portal will eliminate the middle man, allowing you to book your appointment directly without having to call the hospital and maybe even wait on a phone call back from someone there to schedule the appointment.
So look out for that information.
Of course, we'll pass that information out to you once that portal launches on monday.
He said outreach clinics will be out in the community in the next few weeks, to reach those of you who may have transportation issues.
So just be patient.
They will let us know exactly where they're going to be at.
Masking will still be in place at all huntsville hospital locations.
He says visitation, covid-positive, no visitors unless it's for end of life or special circumstances.
If you are not covid positive and you have to be in the positive, you are allowed to have two visitors.
Again, that was a policy change that occurred a couple months ago.
Now, huntsville mayor tommy battle picked it up from there this afternoon.
He says that the county is seeing the lowest numbers we've seen in a very long time.
But he says we have to continue to remember to do what we've done for the last year to get to this point, which is sanitizing and separating.
And he says, right now, it's up to all of us to go get vaccinated.
He said we simply can't let our guard down just yet.
He anticipates hopefully early this summer we'll be able to look at covid in our rearview mirror, so we will hopefully cross our fingers and hope that he is right with that.
He said easter and spring break will be a telltale sign in terms of spikes.
He said we should know by the end of next week if, in fact, there was a spike and how that is going to look.
He said city policy-wise, if you're interacting with their employees and vice versa, they'll ask you to wear a mask and they will do the same.
Basically at city hall the mask requirement stays in place.
He anticipates this to be in effect for another 30 to 45 days.
Mayor battle also reminded us to respect businesses who decide to continue to require masks, if they choose.
Just as we have the right to decide if we want to continue wearing a mask or not.
He says businesses do have a right to decide whether or not they want their employees and customers to wear masks as well.
Bottom line, mayor battle said just hang in there for a few more weeks is.
Now, they will schedule more briefings as they see fit in the future when it comes to the fight against covid here in madison county.
Of course, if they do that, you can count on us to bring you these updates live both on air an online.
Our next newscast is at 4:00 this afternoon.
Until then, you can find the