Huntsville Hospital CEO: Downward Trend in Positive Cases

     Huntsville Hospital CEO David Spillers reported a downward trend in positive COVID-19 tests in the area — even though statewide the number of cases surpassed 100,000 this week — and went on to say he supports the return of college football.

     During Wednesday’s regular  coronavirus briefing at the Huntsville City Council chambers, Spillers said the number of people hospitalized in Huntsville Hospital’s system dropped from 202 last week to 167. Sixty of that current number are in the ICU and 31 are on ventilators.

     In Madison County, there are a total of 97 patients hospitalized, down 12 from last week, with 31 in the ICU and 22 on ventilators. Crestwood Medical Center has 12 inpatients with four in the ICU and two on ventilators.

     “Positive news — things are trending in the right direction for our inpatients,” Spillers said. “We need that number to continue to fall. Ideally, that number would be zero, but below 60 for the region would probably be a manageable number with about half of those here in Madison County. 

     “So we continue to hope they will trend down to the point we don’t have more than 30 in our Madison facilities and no more than 30 spread out throughout the region. And obviously, none of those concentrated in any one hospital.”

     Madison Mayor Paul Finley said Madison County has averaged 32 new cases Monday and Tuesday with 1,376 county residents quarantined.

     “That’s the lowest we’ve seen in a long time,” Finley said.

     Statewide, there were 100,801 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 1,814 deaths as of Wednesday. In Madison County, those numbers are 5,510 and 35.

     Huntsville City, Madison City and Madison County schools reopened with virtual learning this week. Spillers said only time will tell if those systems would return to in-class sessions before the end of the planned nine-week distance period.

     Returning to campus comes with cautionary tales. A statistic of note comes out of Georgia where a week after students returned to classrooms in Cherokee County, 900 students, teachers and workers have been quarantined because of positive tests and exposure to the virus.

     “We really need to manage Labor Day and hopefully the school systems will manage the students coming in and those two things won’t create another blip in the system so that we’re sitting here a month or six weeks from now with another problem on our hands,’’ Spillers said.

     Finley said there will inevitably be more positive cases as students begin to interact more.

     “We’re going to continue to hear cases as kids get together, and (school systems) are doing everything they can to plan for that to prepare for that,’’ he said. “I think we’re just going to have to deal with that,’’.

     In the wake of announcements by the Big 10 and PAC-12 conferences that they were canceling all fall sports seasons, Spillers was asked his thoughts on football in other conferences playing a fall schedule.

     “(From) someone who grew up playing football, every time you walk on to a football field you’re taking a risk,’’ he said. “Probably the risks are far greater than catching COVID. (College) athletes today are 300 pounds and run sub-five second 40s. There is a risk when somebody like that runs into you. I think to tell an athlete the risk is too great they’re going to say, ‘Wait a minute, I risk my knees, my back, concussions. I risk things that are probably far more dangerous to me as a young adult than COVID. Why not play?’’’

     The Alabama High School Athletic Association’s current plan is to start fall athletic seasons as scheduled with mandates for face coverings and distancing for people of different households in place. However, two schools — Greene County and Sumter Central — have suspended athletic activities for the first nine weeks of the first semester and another — Barbour County — has canceled its entire 2020-21 athletic schedules.

     Also, Madison Academy was scheduled to host Briarwood Christian Academy in a football season opener Aug. 21, but the schools decided to cancel that game because of the Mustangs’ small visiting bleachers and visiting locker room.