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Madison Mayor Finley: Events to Fill Baseball Void at Toyota Field – When Allowed

It might not be Rocket City Trash Pandas baseball, but Toyota Field might soon be hosting events.

That’s according to Madison Mayor Paul Finley, who at Wednesday’s COVID-19 press briefing said, as soon as it’s allowed, plans are to open the new stadium to an array of events.

The Trash Pandas were scheduled to open their first season in Double-A on April 15 before the novel coronavirus intervened. There has been no decision regarding the start or cancelation of the Minor or Major League Baseball seasons.

“Regardless of whether baseball happens, or doesn’t happen, we’re getting ready to start doing a lot of really positive things,’’ Finley said. “A lot of people will be able to come to that venue and use it whether its camps for kids for baseball, whether it’s a wine and cheese festival, whether it’s movies in the park — we’re going to start having events there and doing it in a way that makes good sense when it comes to distancing and sanitation and so forth.’’

Finley also pointed out this is National EMS Week and said for those on the frontlines “we’re very appreciative of what they do.’’

On another note, he said masks would be available for anyone without one who attends graduation ceremonies for James Clemens and Bob Jones at Madison City Stadium on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Huntsville plans to hold graduations June 25-26 at the Von Braun Center’s Propst Arena. Madison County schools have set graduations for July 15-16.

Masks will be required at all ceremonies and distancing will be in practice.

As of late Wednesday, there were 13,052 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state and 285 in Madison County. There were 522 deaths in Alabama related to the disease and four in the county.

Crestwood Medical Center CEO Dr. Pam Hudson said there were less than 10 patients in local hospitals being treated for the virus.

“We are remaining vigilant,’’ she said. “We’re watching the numbers as the community reopens.’’

Hudson continued to stress social distancing, hand washing, and cleaning heavily used surfaces.

She also said that while stay-at-home orders were in place most people were around 1 to 5 people in a household. Now that people are returning to work, that core group is more like 20 people. That 20, she pointed out, would average around three people in the household so now each worker is exposed to a possible 60 contacts.

“The more we open it the more germs can come our way,’’ she said, “which is why we focus on six feet apart.’’

Hudson also emphasized that all health care facilities are open and urged anyone who is not well to visit the emergency room.

“Don’t stay home if you’re sick,’’ she said. “Don’t delay essential care.’’

 

Medical Officials Concerned About Disease Affecting Children

An alert has been issued about a rare inflammatory disease that could possibly be related to COVID-19.

The condition — Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome — so far has only been diagnosed in children. No cases have been found within the state, but Dr. Karen Landers of the Alabama Department of Public Health said her department is monitoring the situation, and alerts have been sent to doctors statewide.

Symptoms of the syndrome include fever and rash. It’s being referred to as a Kawasaki-like disease.

“(Kawasaki) is a disease that is still not well understood in the pediatric medical community, but I saw it early in my career so Kawasaki disease has been around for a long time,’’ Landers said during Friday’s COVID-19 briefing at the Huntsville City Council chambers. “Whether or not it is related to COVID-19 is still to be determined.’’

Kawasaki causes fever, followed by inflammation in blood vessels throughout the body. The condition most often affects kids younger than 5 years old.

“I might just remind parents, and as a pediatrician myself, that in this time we’re focusing on COVID, we do not need to forget routine preventative care is very important,’’ Landers said.

As of Saturday morning, the ADPH website listed 11,389 confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide and 274 in Madison County. There were 23 deaths overnight Friday to bring the total to 485, while the death toll in the county remained at four.

Last week, Huntsville Hospital CEO David Spillers said six coronavirus cases were confirmed at the Fever and Flu Clinic but said he didn’t know if all were county residents. Spillers said it was the highest number of positive results in “about 30 days.’’

“We’re not panicking over that,’’ he said. “We all knew when we opened up the economy we would see more positive cases. I think that’s inevitable.’’

In the first week after Gov. Kay Ivey gave the green light to re-open the economy, Spillers said Huntsville Hospital did 1,500 elective surgeries and expected the same amount next week.

He also said Huntsville Hospital and Crestwood Medical Center would maintain restrictions on the number of visitors for each patient and everyone would be required to wear a mask.

He also had words of caution as people try to find some normalcy.

“We need to be careful,’’ he said.

Meanwhile, Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong continued to stress maintaining safe health practices such as wearing a mask, hand sanitizing, and social distancing. He said the turnout to county offices since re-opening has doubled.

“We’re thankful to those that have patiently waited in line and for following our new safety protocols,” Strong said. “They are working well.”

Crestwood CEO: What We’re Doing, What You’re Doing, is Working

Universal Source Control.

That’s the new buzz phrase coming from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) regarding the novel coronavirus COVID-19.

Crestwood Medical Center CEO Dr. Pam Hudson said that was a “fancy way to say, ‘We can’t tell who all has it, we might each have it ourselves. If we all put a mask on, we’re going to significantly reduce the virus’ ability to be passed back and forth.’ ’’

Hudson, joining Madison County Commission Chair Dale Strong at the daily COVID-19 briefing at the Huntsville City Council chambers, said the CDC issued a statement declaring cloth masks as the best option concerning personal protection equipment (PPE). They should be kept clean and dry.

“Wear a mask and keep your virus from me,’’ she said.

Hudson also said a current model shows the virus peaking in the state April 23.

Madison County statistics regarding COVID-19 are positive.

  • Of the 4,043 confirmed cases statewide, as of early Wednesday, only 191, just three more than what was reported Monday, have been within county borders with three deaths of the state’s verified 116. Jefferson and Mobile counties have both reported 17 deaths and two other counties are in double digits.
  • In two weeks, Madison County, the state’s third-largest, has gone from having the second-most confirmed cases behind Jefferson County to fourth and now sixth.
  • A model that earlier projected 8,000 deaths in Alabama from the has gone down first to 634 and recently to 450.
  • Between Crestwood and Huntsville Hospital’s facilities, eight people are hospitalized with the virus and 21 have been discharged.

“So far, so good,’’ Hudson said of Madison County. “We’re on a solid track to claim success in flattening the curve.

“It doesn’t mean we have beaten COVID, it just means what we’re doing, what you’re doing, is working.’’

Strong said plans are being worked out as the discussion for reopening business is in the works. Finley said Gov. Kay Ivey is holding conference calls with mayors to gather information about reopening.

That date is still in question.

Earlier in the week, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said when it does happen it might have to come in “waves.’’

“We have a team of people in the city who is already looking at that and looking at how we would reopen,” Battle said. “We don’t know if it will be in one week, two weeks, three weeks, or six weeks. But we do know at some point we’ll re-open, we want to make sure we’re ahead of the game when we do.”

While the governor determines when the state will reopen, local governments will determine how it unfolds.

“It will be our job to define who opens up and how quickly,’’ Battle said. “That’s usually left to the local governments, it will be our job to enforce it as we go through it.”

Hudson warned against not wearing PPE and observing the six-foot social distancing rule would be a mistake even with talk of reopening escalating.

“Where one graduation party, one funeral, one wedding, one gathering where people aren’t careful away from having a spike in cases,’’ she said.

“We’re nowhere close to declaring victory,’’ Strong said.

 

Companies Step Up to Help Produce Protective Equipment during Pandemic

Innovative thinking and ideas know no limits in the Rocket City, famous for finding solutions to complex problems and managing complicated situations.

The list of needs from the hospitals as they ramp up preparations for a potential surge in COVID-19 cases include surgical and procedural masks, N95 masks, isolation gowns, gloves, face shields, face goggles, ventilators, and swabs. However, it is the “other things” category that breathes life into Huntsville’s smartest minds during this unprecedented medical crisis.

Huntsville Hospital and Crestwood Medical Center are, of course, at the heart of these efforts. The Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce has taken unprecedented steps to coordinate small business and manufacturing efforts to provide additional equipment and supplies to health care providers throughout the community, in the event our area gets overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases.

From the very beginning of the coronavirus crisis, Madison County companies and manufacturers large and small have been participating in these efforts, some adjusting their operations, while others are adapting to needs as they arise, and donating goods and services.

Lucia Cape, senior vice president of Economic Development at the Chamber, is spearheading the manufacturing efforts, maintaining an ongoing list of needed items and locations where businesses can drop off those donations, including the Chamber office on Church Street downtown.

“The manufacturing of these supplies, whether it is something you already manufacture, or something you can modify, the Chamber is running that information down and giving it to Huntsville Hospital and Crestwood to help them coordinate it,” Cape said. “Both hospitals are getting overwhelmed right now with the medical aspects of COVID-19 and this helps keep things in the proper channels.”

The Chamber holds regular calls with manufacturers to get clarification about what items can and can’t be made outside and over their existing supply chain or existing distributor base; and what the procedures are for getting a design approved.

Many of the requests are in reference to face shields, but Cape said several companies responded, offering anything from machine tooling shops that can make metal parts for ventilation carts and shelves, to 3D printers, and shops which specialize in custom injection moldings that can make pretty much anything.

And anything can mean taking on unexpected problems.

One of the things that has arisen from the making of N95 masks, for instance, is that prolonged wearing of the masks has shown to cause some skin breakdown on the bridge of the nose of clinical staff. There may be an opportunity for a device that could cushion the nose and prevent that from happening.

Cape said it is things like that that create unexpected opportunities that might not be on an original list of needs, but for which the Chamber is happy to be a clearinghouse.

“If you have things to sell, donate or have some great ideas, bring them to the Chamber so we can make sure they pass through the right channels and we will connect you directly,” Cape said.

Also, if the hospitals reach a point in which they don’t need some of these items any longer, the Chamber is setting up distribution throughout the community to doctor’s offices and clinics inside and outside our community to help.

Other creative ideas consist of converting CPAPs into ventilators; using plexiglass to make intubation domes; and making ventilator helmets based on a design from a company in Texas that looks like a space suit helmet. One manufacturer on a teleconference call with the Chamber hinted that surely someone in Huntsville can make that.

Study: Ventilator helmets said to be better than traditional face masks.

A couple of companies are assessing whether local doctors and respiratory therapists would embrace that kind of therapy if it were available.

Yet another company is tooling up a sanitization assembly line at Lincoln Mill that can bleach manufacturing parts intended to go into the supply chain.

Another company has offered to repair broken or failing electronic, plastic, or metal equipment.

Companies are also looking at ways to be more efficient, for instance, cutting the filtration material used for making N95 masks differently, and basically getting four masks out of what was originally one.

“We just want to make sure before anyone goes down that track that it is something the hospitals can accept, made by someone from outside the supply chain,” said a spokesperson for the company.

A representative from Huntsville Hospital said he thinks the FDA has waived some of the rules during this pandemic and if they begin running low on anything at some point, emergency authorizations they have already received, give them clear guidance that if reasonable health care professionals and doctors agree these ideas are an acceptable way to do it, then it will be okay.

Many large companies have stepped up to the plate as well.

PPG, which employs 700 people in Huntsville, announced it will donate 50,000 surgical masks and 10,000 N95 masks to several hospitals in the United States including Huntsville Hospital and Crestwood Medical Center.

“PPG is proud to support the medical community as they courageously continue their work on the frontlines of this global pandemic,” said Michael H. McGarry, PPG chairman and chief executive officer. “As One PPG family, we will continue to work with our community partners to provide support and deploy resources wherever possible. We look forward to a brighter future, together.”

Several local companies have donated personal protective equipment (PPE) to help hospitals and medical workers stock up on supplies. Adtran, Aerojet Rocketdyne, ATI, Brown Precision, Bruderer, Dynetics, Facebook, HudsonAlpha, Huntsville Utilities, John Blue Company, Matcor-Matsu, Mazda, Toyota Manufacturing USA, Inc., Mitchell Plastics, Navistar, Polaris, Remington, Turner Construction, TVA, and the UAH College of Nursing have all donated several thousand pairs of reusable protective eyewear to Huntsville Hospital, Madison Hospital and Crestwood Medical Center.

Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama, one of the area’s top employers, has kicked into high gear in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. TMMA is helping curb the spread of the virus by donating masks, safety glasses, shoe/boot covers, gloves, blankets, and cotton swabs to medical personnel.

The automobile engine company is also utilizing its facilities to mass fabricate 3-D printed face shields here in Huntsville.

According to Jeff Samms, COO of the Huntsville Hospital System, Toyota has a nice design for the shields and are now making hundreds of them for the hospital..

“The unknowns for all of us on this is what’s going to affect utilization,” he said. “COVID-19 patients use this isolation equipment at many times the normal rate, so there is an exponential growth in our use of the product, and we don’t know what the demand is going to be.”

Most of the hospitals admit their normal supply chains are broken right now and they are never quite sure what they’re going to get.

Toyota is also offering manufacturing and engineering expertise in support of any company seeking to increase their capacity for making medical supplies and equipment like ventilators and respirators.

The automaker continues to assist in providing essential supplies and emergency relief through local organizations and nonprofits, including significant monetary, “in-kind” donations to the United Way, community food banks, and to other key non-profit organizations geared towards helping those in need.

“Toyota’s core value has always been to contribute to society in meaningful ways beyond providing mobility for our customers,” said Ted Ogawa, incoming CEO, TMNA. “With our plants idled and our dealers focused on servicing customers, we are eager to contribute our expertise and know-how in order to help quickly bring to market the medical supplies and equipment needed to combat the COVID crisis. Our message to the medical equipment community is we are here to help, please utilize our expertise.”

Although currently, the “numbers” – that is the number of infected patients in Madison County hospitals – have not reached the critical level first projected, Chamber President and CEO Chip Cherry said, “We are incredibly grateful for the response from our business community to help our hospitals and first responders stock up on their supplies.

“It has been so good to see boxes of items come in over the last few days. We know these will help in the days to come. We know there is strength in numbers, and we and our members are committed to getting through this together.”

 

 

Crestwood CEO: Surge in Confirmed Cases Possible

Local officials have a statement regarding the coronavirus pandemic: Brace for a possible wave.

Madison County has 101 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with one death, but that could soon change.

“We expect that number to continue to climb,’’ said Dr. Pam Hudson, CEO of Crestwood Medical Center, during a weekly update Tuesday that began this week at the city council chambers. “We expect a surge, if we’re going to have one, about two weeks from now.’’

Wednesday, Huntsville Hospital CEO David Spillers said models have indicated the peak number of patients experiencing virus symptoms will land “on or around April 20.”

“We don’t know what that peak is going to be,” added Madison County Commission Chair Dale Strong.

Spillers said so far the Huntsville Hospital Fever and Flu Clinic has accomodated all testing traffic. However, he added, the drive-thru testing tent set up at John Hunt Park will reopen as soon as supplies are available prior to any surge.

On Tuesday, Hudson said she originally said one employee had tested positive for COVID-19 and Huntsville Hospital had one employee. Crestwood later changed that figure to one physician and one employee.

The Alabama Department of Public Health reported 1,013 confirmed positive tests statewide.

Hudson was joined Tuesday in providing updated information from Madison Mayor Paul Finley, who was also representing Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle; Madison County EMA Director Jeff Birdwell; and HEMSI CEO Jon Howell.

Howell said HEMSI had isolated four employees for possible virus contact.

All four expressed confidence the  area is prepared for a surge in virus cases but also acknowledged it’s a fluent situation with no guarantees.

“This is not an event that will be over tomorrow,’’ Howell said.

Spillers said supplies are hard to come by. Reports he’s read say even supplies in the United States are going to the highest bidder around the globe.

“We need to close that door,” he said.

Hudson said a large focus at her hospital is rotating staff to keep employees fresh.

“It’s easier to make a mask than a nurse,’’ she said.

Howell said the public response so far has been strong as far as his ambulance service is concerned.

“We’re very grateful our respondents have been reduced,’’ he said.

He hopes the lower call volume will remain low in case there is a surge in the coming weeks.

“We need you to stay at home as much as you can,’’ Howell said.

There were central themes at the press conference:

  • Isolate as much as possible at home.
  • Keep a 6-foot distance from others.
  • Wash hands consistently.

Finley and Birdwell said people with concerns can reach out to the chambers of commerce and EMA. Also, they said questions can be answered on websites updated by the cities of Huntsville and Madison, as well as Madison County and the Alabama Department of Public Health.

DIYers Stitch Up to Help Fight Shortage of Medical Masks

The clock is ticking and, with each passing day, the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus increases in the United States.

In fact, according to The New York Times, at least 81,000 people are know to have been infected in the United States, including more than 1,000 deaths. It is more cases than any other country has seen.

In Alabama, four people have died, including one in Madison County.

As hospitals face the crisis head-on, there’s a shortage of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), especially masks. Without adequate protection, health care providers are fighting the battle as if walking a greased tightrope without a safety net.

Although the Federal Emergency Management Agency has a strategic reserve of masks, hospital officials are concerned that the stockpiles will soon be depleted.

Getting new masks has become a real challenge for those on the front lines of patient care. At the national level, there have been numerous accounts of medical staff rationing and reusing the scant supplies that they do have. This practice comes with its own set of risks.

To help address the mask shortage, doctors, nurses and hospitals throughout the United States have reached to social media.

They have targeted their appeal to the creative types that know their way around a sewing machine; those restless souls with time on their hands and a desire to give, and to those who desperately need a news break – during one of the most challenging times our nation has faced in recent history.

Deaconess Health System in Evansville, Ind., is one of the many examples of a medical establishment relying on Facebook in their efforts to get DIY face masks.

The data regarding whether DIY masks are effective or even useful is mixed, with as many opinions on the matter as are there are patterns to make the masks.

On its website under “Strategies for Optimizing the Supply of Facemasks,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that a homemade mask is an acceptable last resort. A DIY mask is better than no protection at all.

In response to the DIY mask appeal, a national movement emerged.

Seemingly overnight, seamstresses throughout the United States began mobilizing their efforts in a very short period of time.

Here in Huntsville, the DIY mask making effort has taken off like a rocket.

Lisa Ordway, costume mistress for the Huntsville Ballet, was one of the first to step up to the presser foot.

“I started reading all about it, there’s a program out West, it was very well organized,” said Ordway, referring to Washington State Hospital’s ‘100 Million Mask Challenge.’ “I don’t know if we’re quite in their situation, but we could be and we may as well get ahead of the curve.”

Once word got out that Ordway was making masks, she became the overnight go-to resource; her text, e-mail, and Facebook site were deluged with inquiries. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Ordway took the Deaconess pattern and made a few design modifications; to improve fit and to accommodate a filter insert.

“We started out one way, making masks with elastic going around the ears,” said Ordway.

After nurses at Madison Hospital received the first batch, they expressed a need for wiring for the top part above the nose and to replace the elastic with ties, both features designed to ensure a more secure fit.

“So, we changed directions and did that,” said Ordway. “And we added a pocket for them to be able to put a filter in.”

Ordway’s modified version of the DIY mask can be found at www.facebook.com/lisa.g.ordway.

Local quilter Rhoda Johnson took on the DIY mask cause after reading various social media appeals from quilting guilds across the country.

Local quilter Rhoda Johnson used a variety of whimsically patterned fabrics to create masks for the staff at Huntsville Hospital for Women and Children.

Using a variety of whimsically patterned fabrics, Johnson plans to deliver her finished DIY masks to Huntsville Hospital for Women and Children. She said the masks can be worn over the PPE masks; the bright and fun DIY masks might bring a smile to the pediatric patients’ faces.

At last count, Johnson had 205 masks cut, stitched and pleated; all waiting for the elastic to be added.

Due to an online supply stock out, Johnson quickly shifted gears and began creating pairs of 22-inch ties to replace the elastic, using fabric already on hand. Johnson used the Deaconess pattern to make the masks at www.deaconess.com/masks.

YoungSu Hoy and Portia Stanley, ICU nurses at Crestwood Medical Center, have also gotten involved in the DIY mask-making effort.

Although Hoy said Crestwood’s PPE supply is adequate, “we’re trying to be prepared with different options in a worst-case scenario.” The pattern that Hoy and Stanley are using can be found at https://youtu.be/BCJcE-r7kcg

Hoy anticipates that their finished masks are more likely to be distributed among the civilian population, as opposed to the front line medical personnel.

“I do know some citizens are wanting them,” said Hoy. “I’ll bet nursing homes would appreciate them, too.”

 

 

 

Trash Pandas, SportsMed, Crestwood Announce Long-Term Partnership

 

MADISON – The Rocket City Trash Pandas, SportsMED Orthopedic and Spine Center, and Crestwood Medical Center have announced a multi-year corporate partnership, which will include naming rights to the Stadium Club in the Trash Pandas’ new ballpark in Madison.

It was also announced that orthopedic surgeon Dr. Troy Layton has been named by the Los Angeles Angels to be the Trash Pandas’ team physician. The Trash Pandas are the Double-A affiliate of the Angels.

“SportsMED has long been associated with athletics in this area – from high school to college, and the pro level,” said Ralph Nelson, CEO of the Trash Pandas. “We welcome the experienced staffs at Crestwood and SportsMED, and are thrilled to have Dr. Layton – who also served the Huntsville Stars – as the Trash Pandas’ team physician.

“With the outstanding facilities at Crestwood Medical Center, combined with Dr. Layton’s amazing experience, the Trash Pandas’ players will be in excellent hands. We are excited and gratified to be partners with SportsMED and Crestwood.”

“Crestwood is proud to continue our support of the North Alabama community by partnering with the Rocket City Trash Pandas as its hospital provider,” said Crestwood Medical Center CEO Dr. Pam Hudson. “Baseball is back in our area for families to enjoy and we are honored to be a part of this exciting community asset.”

The Crestwood and SportsMED brands and logos will also be prominently featured throughout the ballpark. The club on the suite level will be named the SportsMED Stadium Club.

“We are excited and honored to be a part of this organization,” said SportsMED CEO Blake Bentley. “We visited the stadium this week and it is unbelievable; everything is first class. We’ve had a long relationship with baseball in the region and we’re glad it’s back in the Rocket City.”

The Trash Pandas will open their inaugural season next year with their home debut set for April 15 at 6:35 p.m. against the Mississippi Braves at the new ballpark in Town Madison.