With Election Day less than a week away and holiday gatherings on the horizon, local officials reported an alarming statistic Wednesday – coronavirus cases are up 50 percent compared to September.
Crestwood Medical Center CEO Dr. Pam Hudson said COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state have increased to more than 1,000; there are 178 inpatients in the Huntsville area with 32 in ICU; and, in Madison County, there are 90 inpatients with 24 in ICU and 11 on ventilators.
These bleak numbers come before Tuesday’s Election Day and Hudson offers advice to voters.
“I hope everyone will exercise their citizen’s right and duty to vote,” Hudson said during the weekly COVID-19 press conference at the Huntsville City Council chambers. “I have one real suggestion — different from the masking and the social distancing and sanitization — and that is be patient. If it’s crowded, wait.
“Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to wait until the line goes lower or if you see people not being compliant, wait in your car and then go in.’’
In addition to wearing facial coverings at polling sites — Hudson said recent studies indicate mask wearing cuts down the risk of contracting the virus by 40 percent. She also suggested voters wear gloves.
Recent dashboard figures released by the state have 187,706 confirmed virus cases with 2,911 deaths statewide. In Madison County, those numbers are 9,467 and 98.
Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said a possible surge was expected with schools re-opening, churches holding in-person meetings and the expiration of the alcohol sales curfew.
“It’s not an easy thing to get through,” he said. “This virus is hanging on like a rusty fish hook. I mean, it’s just hanging in there and it keeps coming back.”
Johns Hopkins University, a leader in tracking the coronavirus, reports there have been more than 40 million cases worldwide with more than 1 million deaths. The United States has seen nearly 9 million cases and 227,000 deaths.
Hudson agreed with Battle in that the local case surge coincides with increased travel and social gatherings since October began.
She also urged people to get a flu vaccination to reduce the stress on hospitals and health personnel during a time of the year when they’re busier because of flu and other respiratory illnesses.
“… What we’re seeing from COVID-19, the hospitals would be busy even without COVID-19 right now with the respiratory problems and other problems that you find in the hospital,” Battle said. “We as a community have to protect ourselves.”