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'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

Confirmed Cases: 160380

Reported Deaths: 2713
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson23573377
Mobile16994316
Tuscaloosa10462140
Montgomery10352198
Madison942298
Shelby750465
Baldwin671269
Lee657165
Calhoun464761
Marshall442651
Etowah434151
Morgan422335
Houston419334
DeKalb349228
Elmore324653
St. Clair304042
Limestone293631
Walker283793
Talladega271437
Cullman255725
Lauderdale233842
Jackson219417
Autauga208231
Franklin206432
Colbert206032
Blount197225
Russell19603
Chilton190432
Dallas188127
Coffee180711
Dale178952
Covington175929
Escambia174931
Chambers136847
Clarke136617
Pike134514
Tallapoosa133987
Marion110331
Barbour10429
Marengo102622
Butler101241
Winston94013
Geneva9217
Lawrence86933
Pickens86918
Bibb85015
Randolph83516
Hale77730
Cherokee75614
Clay75312
Washington75112
Henry7236
Lowndes71628
Monroe65510
Bullock65017
Crenshaw60930
Perry5956
Fayette58913
Cleburne5739
Wilcox57012
Conecuh56513
Macon53920
Lamar5085
Sumter47421
Choctaw39312
Greene34616
Coosa2093
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 251774

Reported Deaths: 3207
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby36855568
Davidson32175341
Knox1295692
Rutherford12143115
Hamilton11952110
Williamson723556
Sumner6230112
Wilson478560
Putnam449957
Montgomery427558
Out of TN417134
Madison385180
Sullivan384648
Bradley364123
Washington361553
Sevier340823
Maury340738
Blount340436
Robertson264044
Hamblen249548
Tipton240623
Unassigned23306
Dyer228535
Gibson219249
Coffee194326
Hardeman190933
Greene182154
Obion181123
Trousdale17778
Bedford175320
Anderson172714
Dickson172219
Fayette170825
McMinn167337
Lawrence166520
Loudon165311
Cumberland162327
Wayne16067
Carter159834
Weakley157926
Jefferson157522
Monroe148629
Warren146110
Lauderdale145117
Henderson142626
Hardin141622
Macon135725
Roane13467
Franklin130522
Haywood130528
Hawkins123225
Overton123218
White120014
Johnson11667
Carroll115826
Marshall115611
McNairy114428
Rhea113018
Cocke109714
Cheatham107912
Campbell104412
Bledsoe10264
Smith100514
Lake9883
Giles98636
Fentress92611
Lincoln9253
Crockett87620
Hickman81015
Henry80912
Marion79410
DeKalb75117
Chester73515
Decatur66711
Grainger6174
Grundy57811
Union5493
Claiborne5346
Polk52713
Jackson4596
Humphreys4574
Unicoi4453
Morgan4447
Cannon4272
Benton4269
Houston42517
Lewis4225
Clay41015
Scott3945
Sequatchie3572
Stewart33811
Meigs3306
Perry3295
Pickett2769
Moore2712
Van Buren2102
Hancock1213

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