As the novel coronavirus pandemic plows forward the message from health officials remains the same.
Especially since a variant of COVID-19 has come into play and has proven more contagious than its predecessor.
The message bears repeating even as the positive tests in Madison County have moved downward lately — wear facemasks, sanitize hands and surfaces and practice social distancing.
During the weekly COVID-19 press briefing at the Huntsville City Council chambers, Huntsville Hospital CEO David Spillers said he’s concerned virus fatigue will lead to apathy in practicing safety guidelines.
“It will not surprise me if we had another spike,’’ Spillers said. “I hope it doesn’t reach the degree that we saw following Thanksgiving and over the Christmas holidays. I think everybody let their guard down over Thanksgiving and it showed up in the number of hospitalizations here and nationwide.
“Hopefully, we won’t get that high again.’’
Spillers said the “trend line’’ was good regarding the amount of people testing positive for the virus locally.
And while around 200 hospital and healthcare workers are currently out in Huntsville Hospital facilities in north Alabama because of the virus — compared to a high of over 300 previously — the drop has provided some relief for hospital staff but there’s still a strain on the workforce.
Of those 200 who are sidelined, 130 work at Huntsville’s main campus.
“It’s no time for people to quit social distancing, sanitizing and wearing masks,’’ Spillers said.
On Thursday, Gov. Kay Ivey extended the state’s safer-at-home and mask mandate until March 5.
The recent focus has been on vaccinations, but it’s going to take months to get enough of the medicine to vaccinate all citizens who want the shots.
Spillers said there have been 20,000 appointments logged though his hospital, which can administer 3,000 shots a week. He added there needs to be more vaccination sites, and supplies, to create momentum as efforts to control the virus continue.
According to published reports, people from all over the country are going to states or counties where they don’t live to gain access to the vaccine. That scenario is no different in Madison County, though Alabama has reportedly vaccinated the fewest percentage of residents than any of the 50 states.
“When we find people who have registered here that may be in one of the surrounding counties, we try to get them scheduled in the local county,’’ Spiller said. “It’s easier for them, and that distributes the load among all of our hospitals.
“We can vaccinate about 3,000 people a week right now in Madison County. That’s all the vaccine we’re getting. We’re vaccinating. We’re not holding back any vaccine when we get it. As soon as we can get people scheduled and get them in, we can continue to increase the number of vaccines as we get more.’’
As of Jan. 19, there were 186 COVID-19 patients in Madison County with 47 in ICU and 35 on ventilators.
“We still have a lot of sick patients,’’ Spillers said.
Statistics released Jan. 21 by the Alabama Department of Public health showed 432,536 positive cases and 6,379 deaths statewide. Those numbers in Madison County were 27,627 and 201.