Huntsville Hospital to Receive Coronavirus Vaccine; Cases Continue to Rise

As the initial doses of the coronavirus vaccine are being delivered around the country, the song remains the same regarding – wear face masks, sanitize hands and practice social distancing.

“It’s a record that just keeps spinning,’’ Madison Mayor Paul Finley said at the weekly coronavirus update.

And with the holiday season here and virus cases rising, Crestwood Medical Center CEO Dr. Pam Hudson urges one more thing.

“Avoid gatherings’’ of more than five to 10 people, she said.

Meanwhile, Huntsville Hospital will receive doses of the new vaccine since it has the refrigeration system capable of storing the sensitive treatment.

“Huntsville Hospital will help take a leadership role in trying to get this out and this is not community-wide vaccination,’’ Hudson said. “It’s prioritized for frontline health care workers.”

The general public might not have vaccines available until the summer.

While the number of positive cases continue to rise around the nation, state and Madison County, Hudson couldn’t pinpoint Thanksgiving gatherings as a reason for the ongoing rise in numbers.

Instead, she said, the uptick in hospitalizations for COVID-19 can be attributed to, not only Thanksgiving but, the increase in people attending such things as sporting events as the country has opened up.

“Since fall break in October, there’s been a gradual increase,’’ Hudson said.

In North Alabama hospitals, 30 to 50 percent of people hospitalized are due to COVID-19. At the peak of positive cases in the summer, there were about 1,500 people hospitalized because of the virus. The current number is more than 2,000.

As of Dec. 9, there were 234 county in-patients with 37 in ICUs and 29 on ventilators.

As of Dec. 12, the county has confirmed 17,030 cases of the virus with 162 deaths. Statewide, those numbers are 295,631 and 4,102.

Hudson said the growing number of virus patients is straining personnel resources. At least 200 health care workers in the area are out with coronavirus or seasonal flu-related issues.

“Hospitals are responding to all-time highs,’’ she said. “It’s safe to say across the entire state we are struggling with hospitalizations due to COVID.’’

Elective surgeries have been reduced or stopped at many facilities because of staff shortages.

Also, Gov. Kay Ivey extended a mask-wearing mandate until Jan. 22, but has indicated she won’t place further restrictions on businesses or the community.

In the meantime, Finley joined Hudson in advising people to avoid large holiday parties.

“The less opportunity we have of all getting together,’’ he said, “the better off we’ll be.’’