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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.