'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: 99926

Reported Deaths: 1781
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson13258244
Mobile10517207
Montgomery6835149
Madison544734
Tuscaloosa423076
Baldwin365125
Unassigned363064
Shelby330936
Marshall318937
Lee270047
Morgan241118
Etowah216232
DeKalb183013
Calhoun180717
Elmore173138
Walker153964
Houston141912
Russell13872
St. Clair135418
Limestone134913
Dallas133123
Franklin128820
Cullman122712
Colbert120716
Lauderdale118919
Autauga117421
Escambia108717
Talladega104814
Jackson10144
Tallapoosa86579
Chambers84438
Dale83525
Clarke82610
Blount8124
Chilton8097
Butler76736
Coffee7646
Covington73720
Pike7087
Marion58026
Barbour5765
Lowndes57324
Marengo56515
Hale47826
Bullock46611
Winston45711
Perry4454
Washington44312
Bibb4425
Wilcox43210
Monroe4215
Pickens4049
Randolph40310
Conecuh39310
Sumter36418
Lawrence3512
Macon33914
Crenshaw3265
Choctaw28712
Cherokee2758
Henry2643
Clay2635
Geneva2631
Greene25211
Lamar2292
Fayette2125
Cleburne1271
Coosa1033
Out of AL00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 123914

Reported Deaths: 1233
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby23485308
Davidson20722217
Rutherford658955
Hamilton622053
Knox468540
Williamson357725
Sumner344972
Unassigned31424
Out of TN294714
Wilson232123
Bradley195613
Montgomery195213
Sevier18947
Putnam178518
Trousdale15836
Robertson156720
Hamblen140514
Blount131411
Washington12772
Maury12727
Tipton121110
Madison116018
Sullivan103714
Hardeman93017
Bedford92811
Macon86013
Lake7920
Loudon7493
Gibson7266
Bledsoe7081
Fayette7028
Dickson6982
Anderson6936
Dyer6638
Henderson6043
Cheatham5997
Jefferson5844
Obion5794
Lawrence5756
McMinn55320
Coffee5483
Rhea5382
Warren5334
Carter5246
Lauderdale5148
Haywood5106
Greene5048
Roane4852
Hawkins4837
Hardin4828
Cocke4783
Weakley4634
Cumberland4586
Smith4554
Monroe4529
Giles38513
McNairy3815
DeKalb3652
Franklin3324
Carroll3253
Lincoln3091
Marshall3044
White2945
Henry2900
Johnson2850
Claiborne2760
Hickman2730
Crockett2695
Campbell2541
Wayne2282
Marion2274
Chester2232
Decatur2163
Polk2073
Grainger2000
Overton1981
Unicoi1690
Union1620
Benton1591
Cannon1510
Jackson1291
Humphreys1283
Morgan1261
Scott1220
Grundy1142
Meigs1060
Sequatchie1060
Fentress960
Hancock812
Perry810
Clay780
Stewart780
Lewis741
Moore610
Houston590
Pickett371
Van Buren360

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