North Alabama doctors, nurses hope public does more to help decrease coronavirus spread

On Friday, the Alabama Department of Public Health recorded 6,745 total hospitalizations to date.

Posted: Jul 10, 2020 11:38 PM
Updated: Jul 11, 2020 10:51 AM

After months of facing the pandemic, the medical staff at facilities like Athens-Limestone Hospital said they feel better about facing the coronavirus now than they did in the early days. 

"We are less scared than we were, we are more knowledgeable now, but we still are taking the precautions that we need to and treating them with the most excellent care we can provide," said James Root, an intensive care unit (ICU) technician, said.

Root and Registered Nurse Meg Pickle took time from their 12-hour shifts on Friday to speak with WAAY 31 News. Pickle was dressed in her white, protective suit with an elastic hood that she wears when interacting with coronavirus patients. Hospital employees have nicknamed the outfit "the bunny suit."

"I pretty much get in this if I'm going to be working with COVID patients. I wear this all day, I don't leave the unit and this is what we all wear along with gloves and the N-95 mask," Pickle said.

At Huntsville Hospital's main campus, Dr. Sherrie Squyres said over the past few months, she and her coworkers gained an appreciation for just how contagious the virus is, the various ways it can develop in patients and the importance of both preparation and prevention: like wearing masks in public.

"Masking and distancing and just using common sense can eradicate this thing and yet, it's still out there prevalent," Dr. Squyres said.

Dr. Squyres was part of the medical team that crafted Madison County's mask ordinance. They said it was important that the ordinance be a medical decision, not a political one. She and others hoped that creating a mandate wouldn't be necessary. 

"But more and more, what we were seeing was despite efforts to encourage people, it was still not being done out there as widely out there as we hoped that it would be. So what we hope to do is put more pressure on people to do this and educate them in a more stern way," Dr. Squyres said.

With the amount of work they're doing to make sure that patients recover from the virus, those like Root wish people were doing more to help them.

"It is frustrating, yes, just to see the people not taking it seriously or thinking that this is something that has blown over already," Root said.

Dr. Squyres added that while the Huntsville Hospital system was very proactive about getting PPE, she and others in the medical field are still concerned for their own safety as they continue to confront the virus day after day.

"We are concerned that if a lot of our colleagues get infected, that that will deplete our resources at the hospital. And so we're all trying to take care of each other," Dr. Squyres said.

And it's not just their physical health they're protecting, but their mental and emotional health as well.

"We really lift each other up and so when somebody's having a bad day, we really try to go above and beyond to make up for that weakness, which isn't a weakness. It's human, you know?" Root said.

He said they are appreciative of the displays of public thanks, like parades and military flyovers, but said one of the best ways they can thank them is by doing their part to helps low the spread. 

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