Category: Health Care

Local Health Officials Worry CDC Has ‘Lost Its Soul’

As Dr. Mark Wilson prepared to release advice in July that middle schools and high schools in Birmingham should not open for in-person learning this fall, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its position and issued the opposite recommendation.

Wilson, health officer for Jefferson County, stuck to his at-home schooling decision, but now without support from what had long been regarded as the nation’s most esteemed public health authority.

Not only that, he said some of the vexed parents even cited the CDC in attacking his stand. It felt like the limb he was out on had been sawed off at the trunk.

“That guidance gave me one of the worst weeks of my life,” Wilson recalled in an interview with Stateline.

The agency’s revised advice came on the heels of President Donald Trump’s vigorous call for a full, face-to-face school reopening. But it conflicted with what Wilson and other public health officials knew were disturbing results from a credible South Korean study, which, contrary to popular belief, found that older children were a greater risk for transmitting the virus than younger children. That made reopening middle and high schools more problematic.

Since the pandemic began, a string of messages from the Trump administration, many lacking scientific evidence, have confounded the work of state and local public health authorities who have the already challenging job of convincing people to abide by restrictions that many find not only onerous but also economically punishing. Read more.

Face Masks Are Blunting the Pandemic, but Officials Warn the Threat Isn’t Over

COVID-19 positivity rates and the number of hospitalizations are declining here, but Jefferson County and UAB health officials warn safety precautions must remain in place.

“Face coverings have made a difference,” said Dr. Mark Wilson, Jefferson County Health Officer.

He said mandatory facial coverings could be in place through the end of the year in an effort to combat the rise of COVID cases and to reduce the number of expected influenza cases. He urged everyone over the age of six months to get a flu shot as of Sept. 1.

“I don’t know what the state will do, but here in Jefferson County I plan to push for the wearing of face coverings through the end of the year,” Wilson said. Read more.

As Nursing Homes’ Stocks of PPE Get Too Low for Comfort, Ivey Grants Them $50 Million in COVID Aid

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Friday announced that up to $50 million in federal grants will be allocated to the state’s nursing homes to help respond to COVID-19. That’s welcome news for the state’s long-term care centers, as researchers recently found that one fourth of such facilities have less than a week’s worth of the kind of masks needed to protect workers from contracting coronavirus. Read more.

Gov. Ivey Requires Face Masks in Schools, Extends Statewide Ordinance

WBHM — For teachers and students preparing to enter the classroom next month, masks will now be required for anyone in second grade and above. Governor Kay Ivey issued the new mandate Wednesday as an amendment to the statewide mask ordinance and Safer at Home order. The orders, originally set to expire Friday, have been extended through Aug. 31. Read more.

More Than 15% of COVID-19 Tests in Jefferson County are Positive

This past week, 1,700 new individuals per day have been tested for the coronavirus in Jefferson County, with an average of 278 people a day testing positive and two a day dying. Those numbers give the county a positivity rate that tops 15%, the highest of any one week so far during the pandemic, county Health Officer Dr. Mark Wilson said in a briefing Tuesday.

Hospitals in Jefferson County are caring for 275 patients with the virus; 110 of those are in intensive care units and 52 on ventilators, Wilson said. Read more.

Not Just in the Lungs: Coronavirus Causes Blood Clots, Attacks the Brain, Can Result in Strokes and Organ Damage

In March, a Chinese researcher warned scientists and doctors to expect the unexpected with COVID-19.

That researcher hit it on the nose, said UAB pulmonary critical care physician Dr. Sheetal Gandotra. “We had a lot to learn about the risk factors, symptoms, course of the disease, organ systems affected and recovery. But the basic tenets of excellent critical care remain the same.”

As doctors treat COVID-19 patients with a constellation of symptoms and organ damage, researchers continue to try to determine health outcomes for virus survivors. They have no long-term studies to guide them, because the disease surfaced in China in November 2019.

Initially, COVID-19 was thought of as a respiratory disease. But now, studies show the virus spreads its deadly effects through blood clots to the brain, heart, kidneys, endothelial cells that line blood vessels and other vital organs. From looking at the damage, some researchers have said a subset of patients who contract the coronavirus may suffer long-term damage from the disease.

Autopsies of COVID victims have found that the virus attacked the lungs the most ferociously, but the pathogen was found in other vital body organs. Pathologists found that oxygen deprivation to the brain and the formation of blood clots may start early in the disease process. Read more.

Residents, Employees at Veterans Nursing Homes Test Positive for COVID-19

At the end of June, after completing a round of testing for the coronavirus at the state’s four veterans homes, the state Department of Veterans Affairs reported that all of the residents at the homes were “virus free.”

That is no longer the case.

The department reported Monday that after additional testing last week, nine residents and seven employees at the William F. Green State Veterans Home in Bay Minette tested positive for the coronavirus. So have seven employees at the Colonel Robert L. Howard State Veterans Home in Pell City, three at the Floyd “Tut” Fann State Veterans Home in Huntsville and four at the Bill Nichols State Veterans Home in Alexander City.
Read more.

Amid Record COVID-19 Cases, Near-Capacity Hospitals Prep For July 4th Influx

With COVID-19 patients already filling beds at a record pace, hospitals across Alabama are bracing for an influx of people infected at Fourth of July gatherings.

Statewide hospitalizations Wednesday were 1,110, the highest number yet, Dr. Don Williamson, president and CEO of the Alabama Hospital Association said Thursday.

The state also had 163 admissions, the highest one-day number of new patients due to COVID-19. The state was down to 206 intensive care unit beds available, which is 12% of capacity, the lowest rate yet during the pandemic.

“The concern is that all the numbers we are using to monitor the outbreak moved in the wrong direction,” Williamson said. Read more.