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Marshall County Commission Speakers Judy Smith, Kathy Woodruff and Anita McBurnett
LEFT to RIGHT: Judy Smith (Alabama Department of Public Health), Kathy Woodruff (Chief Nursing Officer for Marshall Medical Centers), Anita McBurnett (Managing Director of Marshall County EMA)

Wed, Jun 24, 2020 at 04:30 PM

Hospital, public health officials plead with public to protect themselves, others.

With COVID-19 infecting Marshall County residents at an alarming rate, medical and public health officials on Wednesday pleaded with the community to do its part to help turn back the surge.

Positive cases in Marshall County jumped up by more than 100 in three days from June 21 to 24, said Judy Smith of the Alabama Department of Public Health. One-third or 392 of the total cases here have occurred in the past two weeks, she said, which is about the same rate of increase seen by the state.

“You have a wonderful hospital system in this area,” she said. “They have been able to manage what’s going on. They’ve been able to manage their PPE. They’ve been able to manage their patients but that could change.”

Of the total 128 patients who’ve tested positive at Marshall Medical, 58 were tested in the past week, said Kathy Woodruff, Chief Nursing Officer for Marshall Medical Centers.

“That’s a big, big increase,” she said. “That’s a lot. It scares me. I don’t want to cause panic in the community but I want to let people know this is very serious.”

Woodruff said coronavirus cases have continued to climb despite all efforts to educate the public on how to protect themselves and others.

“We haven’t had a flattening of the curve yet from the very beginning,” she said. “Our cases in Marshall County have gone up, up, up, up. We‘ve had no flattening at all.”

Marshall Medical had few COVID-19 patients in the hospital until two weeks ago. This week saw 17 coronavirus inpatients – four at Marshall North and 13 at Marshall South. Some of those are being cared for in the ICU. The patients range in age from their 20s to 90s, Woodruff said.

“It was nothing like what we’ve seen in the past two weeks and this is the nightmare I really didn’t want to see.”

Smith said Alabama recorded its first COVID-19 cases March 13 and now the state is reporting 31,624 cases. Nationwide, 2.4 million cases have been reported with 123,000 deaths. In a typical year, 60,000 people die from the flu. More than twice that number have died from the coronavirus and there still is no vaccine. Marshall County reported 1,082 on June 24, which was an increase of 42 cases from the day before. She urged resident to be more cautious.

“Since opening up, people are assuming it’s safe to be out,” she said. “We are out and about but the virus is also out and about.”

It is up to each individual to take the simple but important steps to protect themselves and others.

“Wear a mask,” Smith urged. “Everywhere you go and everything you do, someone there is going to be a COVID person. We need to move from a mode of reaction to a mode of prevention. The number one thing is social distancing. Wear a mask, wear a barrier. Stay away from other folks if they’re too close to you. You’re trying to take care of your family and trying to take care of you. Obviously sanitation is the other secret.”

Woodruff agreed.

“It’s okay to be out and about but wear a mask and wash your hands when you get home. Do not touch your face. That’s how this virus is spread.”

Woodruff displayed a sign declaring “Do your part. Show respect. Wear a mask. This means you.”

“We wear masks to protect ourselves as well as to protect others,” she said. “You need to assume every person you come in contact with – even family members – is positive. That’s the only way we can try to keep this virus from spreading and get control of it because right now in Marshall County it’s out of control. I don’t want to end up like New York City. That’s my biggest fear that we will end up with a lot of sick people and we’re going to be overwhelmed at the hospital.”

So far, only four people have died in Marshall Medical Centers from COVID-19.

Anita McBurnett, managing director of the Marshall County Emergency Management Agency, referred questions about the numbers to the ADPH website and BamaTracker.com.

“We’re asking today that everybody in Marshall County do their part,” she said” “Chip in. Wear your mask. Help us help each other.”

Commission Chairman James Hutcheson said the county has given out more than 10,000 masks.