'Be extremely careful': Helen Keller Hospital warns Shoals community leaders about coronavirus spread

The president of Helen Keller Hospital says the area is "ballooning" with rising coronavirus cases.

Posted: May 14, 2020 12:58 PM
Updated: May 14, 2020 11:15 PM

In an email obtained by WAAY 31, Helen Keller Hospital President Kyle Buchanan is warning business and civic leaders about concerns over the growing number of coronavirus cases in the Shoals.

The email was sent the afternoon of Wednesday, May 13. Buchanan told WAAY 31 he did send the email to several community letters and some mayors in the Shoals. WAAY 31 confirmed Mayor Steve Holt of Florence received the email.

WAAY31 spoke with Buchanan about his email. He said it's a message that needs to be heard. Helen Keller Hospital sent a press release Thursday to the media about the coronavirus increases Buchanan discussed in his Wednesday email.

"We're not out of the woods at all. We're in the thick of it we believe," said Buchanan as he spoke with WAAY31.

As of Thursday afternoon coronavirus cases in Colbert, Franklin, and Lauderdale counties are more than 460. When Buchanan sent the email Wednesday afternoon there were 441 cases combined in the counties.

"We will encounter people here that have a positive COVID-19 and as we have conversations with them to understand how they contracted it they have no clue. Several times they are facing difficult decisions with their family and are becoming increasingly sick without any idea of how they are contracting the disease so it's extremely difficult," said Buchanan.

Buchanan said he sent the email to business and local leaders to give them the facts. While the state is opening up, this is no time to let our guard down.

"Several of them have us the question of things are getting better we understand the infections have lessened in the shoals area and today were saying that has not happened to the degree that any of us are comfortable so take that in mind when developing your city plans so everyone can remain safe," said Buchanan.

During our interview with Buchanan he removed his mask and held it in his hand until he was done answering questions then he put it back on. He said wearing a mask is one way to protect people from whatever you might have especially with people being asymptomatic.

He said washing hands and not becoming complacent in your sanitizing will hopefully help Shoals numbers level off.

The full email Buchanan sent business and civic leaders is below: 

Civic and Business Leaders,

Many of you asked local healthcare leaders to lend a perspective regarding reopening activities in northwest Alabama. While there is reason to be optimistic, there is also reason to be extremely careful, especially now.

Our journey with COVID-19 began on Friday, March 19th with the first confirmed positive case in northwest Alabama. The number of COVID-19 cases in northwest Alabama grew from one case to near 100 cases on April 30th. Our trajectory at the time showed slow growth indicative of significant control of spread and tracked favorably compared to the rest of the state.

Then, May happened.

Our number of confirmed cases ballooned from 124 to 441 in the first 13 days of May, as indicated below.

Although the Huntsville area is 174% more populous than northwest Alabama, this afternoon, our total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Colbert, Franklin and Lauderdale Counties combined surpassed that of Madison, Limestone and Morgan counties combined.

Likewise, in the most recent 13 days, we experienced a threefold increase in the number of patients who were admitted to local hospitals with COVID-19, several in critical condition.

Yes, Franklin County holds the home addresses of many of the newly discovered cases. However, most COVID-19 positive patients on our radar work, buy groceries, and have family connections throughout Colbert and Lauderdale Counties, as we all would expect.

While we all want normalcy as soon as possible, we are concerned about a return to normal daily activity while our beloved corner of Alabama encounters far more aggressive infection rates than most Alabama communities. Based on this data, extreme caution should be taken in the coming days and weeks in order to prevent a severe outbreak in our local community.

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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 422598

Reported Deaths: 6120
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson62039921
Mobile30225548
Madison27052186
Tuscaloosa20728267
Montgomery18978305
Shelby18504114
Baldwin16251182
Lee12465101
Morgan12233113
Etowah11735168
Calhoun11122200
Marshall10191107
Houston8598148
Cullman8023105
Limestone800274
Elmore7836101
DeKalb768397
Lauderdale754683
St. Clair7535120
Talladega6166108
Walker5897174
Jackson580341
Colbert532073
Blount530483
Autauga518455
Coffee441056
Dale396181
Franklin366248
Chilton336165
Russell330310
Covington327268
Escambia316842
Dallas303196
Chambers282769
Clarke281433
Tallapoosa2616107
Pike248729
Marion245650
Lawrence243647
Winston226635
Bibb215147
Geneva201435
Marengo199029
Pickens196531
Hale175842
Barbour172936
Butler169658
Fayette168226
Cherokee160330
Henry153621
Monroe145217
Randolph139835
Washington137626
Clay126145
Crenshaw118744
Lamar118019
Cleburne117423
Macon114735
Lowndes110335
Wilcox103121
Bullock99028
Perry97419
Conecuh94420
Sumter89026
Greene76023
Coosa60515
Choctaw51224
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 685321

Reported Deaths: 8391
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby761671128
Davidson70706661
Knox38646393
Hamilton34556326
Rutherford33114283
Unassigned22759126
Williamson21364138
Sumner18205230
Out of TN1612079
Wilson14405155
Montgomery14367149
Sullivan12577211
Washington11889191
Blount11887124
Maury10941123
Bradley1075190
Sevier10461108
Putnam9931136
Madison9099178
Robertson761885
Hamblen6954109
Anderson6759102
Greene6569108
Tipton619065
Gibson5630111
Coffee560681
Cumberland537872
Dickson534678
Bedford532086
Roane519179
Carter5091112
Lawrence507569
McMinn506673
Warren497553
Loudon493750
Jefferson474975
Dyer473682
Monroe455162
Hawkins444968
Franklin410758
Obion399478
Fayette396251
Rhea381556
Lincoln378344
Marshall343536
Cocke342856
Weakley339448
Cheatham335230
Henderson332056
Campbell323940
Giles321071
White310043
Hardeman308752
Carroll307859
Hardin297647
Lauderdale293131
Macon287350
Wayne260719
Henry260358
Overton252942
DeKalb241741
Haywood239745
McNairy238142
Smith230527
Trousdale228714
Marion227731
Scott225231
Hickman222734
Fentress212531
Claiborne210129
Grainger208135
Johnson201532
Morgan188614
Crockett180338
Bledsoe174110
Chester173237
Unicoi166843
Cannon157019
Lake155319
Decatur147226
Polk142817
Grundy139320
Union138721
Sequatchie136518
Humphreys132617
Benton131935
Lewis127220
Meigs114016
Stewart105220
Jackson103721
Perry94725
Houston93922
Clay93726
Moore7959
Pickett67619
Van Buren6587
Hancock4026

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