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Huntsville prepared for potential Coronavirus outbreak

Published on February 27, 2020

health care and city leaders speaking to reporters about the COVID-19 coronavirus

While many Americans are on high alert about a possible coronavirus outbreak, state and local health officials confirm the risk is still low.

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle joined healthcare representatives and other elected leaders on Thursday, February 27, to update the public about preparations to manage potential cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Although no COVID-19 cases have been reported in Alabama, Battle said the community has procedures in place to respond if the virus does reach Huntsville.

“Our community is prepared – we’re ready,” he said. “We hope we don’t have to be ready, but if something does happen, we have a prepared community and we will all work in conjunction with each other to make sure we take care of everybody in the community and across the board.”

Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) District Medical Officer Dr. Karen Landers said COVID-19 is primarily spread by respiratory droplets via coughing and sneezing. The virus, which can appear 2-14 days after exposure, can range from mild, cold-like symptoms to severe illness and death.

Landers said health agencies are monitoring the coronavirus outbreak closely and finalizing response plans in case the virus goes local.

“At this point in time, we have the ability to respond to this,” she said. “We have the experience to respond to this. We are staying up to date on the information.”

Stay current on COVID-19 Information

Dr. Pam Hudson, CEO of Crestwood Medical Center, said her hospital continually works to prepare for all types of infectious diseases, including COVID-19.

“We have been educating our team members on the infection control protocols established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the Novel Coronavirus 2019, just as we do for other types of infectious diseases,” she said. “We are using the screening guidelines for symptoms and risk factors and have a response plan to protect patients and our staff should it be needed. We understand the sensitivity at this time and want to reassure the community that we remain alert and ready to provide such care if necessary.”

Tracy Doughty, vice president of operations for Huntsville Hospital, echoed Hudson’s statement. With so many local professionals traveling internationally, Doughty said Huntsville Hospital has processes in place to treat patients with communicable diseases.

“It is our duty to make sure we’re ready for anything like this to protect our community and Huntsville Hospital is one of the cogs of that,” he said.

To help prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses such as COVID-19, residents should:

  • Wash their hands for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer often
  • Cover their cough or sneeze with a tissue and throw it away
  • If a tissue isn’t available, cough or sneeze into upper sleeve
  • Stay home if sick
  • Get a flu shot

When researching COVID-19, Landers urges individuals to only consume reputable sources, such as the CDC. She also encourages residents to develop a personal preparedness plan in the event an outbreak does happen in Alabama.

Those who develop COVID-19 symptoms and have recently traveled to China or been in close contact with someone who has should contact their healthcare professional immediately. Visit the CDC’s website for more information.