Madison County officials urge mask use with coronavirus cases on the rise

Hospitalizations in Madison County have seen a considerable increase over the past two weeks and officials are asking community members to wear masks in an effort to cut down the spread.

Posted: Jun 22, 2020 7:46 PM

As coronavirus cases in Alabama surpass 30,000, Madison County officials say hospitalizations are on the rise.

David Spillers, CEO of Huntsville Hospital, called the increase “fairly substantial.”

“Last time, I reported we had eight COVID positive patients that were in the Madison County facilities. Today, we have 23,” Spillers said of the rise over the past two weeks.

Among those hospitalized in the county, shortness of breath and fever are what most commonly brought them in.

The percentage of positive tests is also on the rise, even with a significant amount of testing being done to asymptomatic people, according to Spillers.

“For the longest time, I presented to this group that about three percent of all of our tests were running positive,” he said. “That’s now up around six to eight percent of the tests we run are coming back positive.”

Nearly 26 percent of those admitted in Madison County end up in the ICU -- where patients have a 33 percent mortality rate. Only six deaths have been reported in the county so far.

The most surprising number, according to Spillers, is the average age of someone admitted to the hospital -- currently sitting at 54.6.

“People tend to think this is much more skewed towards the elderly - and, if you look at mortality, it is much more skewed towards the elderly,” Spillers explained. “For me, 54 is not old at all.”

While the numbers are on the rise, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle says the city is not in a position where a mandatory mask ordinance is necessary.

The mayor has been very vocal about mask use in the community. Though he is urging people to wear them, he hasn’t put forth any ordinances yet and says things are currently in a monitoring phase.

“In areas where you can stay separated, you may not need to wear a mask,” he said, “but in those areas where you come close to people, you’ve got to wear a mask.”

Spillers, also a strong advocate of mask use, says it’s not political, it’s just logical.

“I think that that’s the single most important thing we could do to try to minimize the spread of coronavirus,” he explained.

While the city has discussed the possibility of a mask ordinance, Battle says it would take a significant spike to get into a position where they’d be ready to draft something.

On Monday, Battle said around 700 new cases would put an ordinance “in consideration.”

But with that would come the challenge of enforcement.

“How would you enforce it?” Battle asked. “How are you gonna make sure that four year old keeps his mask on? I have a four-year-old grandson, it’s gonna be kind of hard to keep him in a mask.”

If the city got to a point where a mask ordinance was in serious consideration, Battle and the city would be in contact with Montgomery and Birmingham - who both have policies in place - to discuss some of their best practices.

Battle said he believes the Huntsville community cam get through the pandemic better than any other community in the state, so long as they focus and mask, sanitize and stay separated.

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