Local health leaders are “cautiously optimistic” COVID-19 cases are beginning to level out and decline in Marshall County.

Dr. Victor Sparks, medical director of the emergency department of Marshall Medical Center North; Kathy Woodruff, director of nursing for Marshall Medical Centers; and Judy Smith, Alabama Department of Health North Alabama District director, spoke at a press conference Thursday at the Marshall County Court House. The recurring message was for residents to continue wearing masks, practice social distancing and use good sanitization practices.

“After Memorial Day, we have a hug uptick in cases and deaths statewide,” Smith said. “Then we had another uptick after July 4th... If we have learned nothing else, we have learned that congregating is going to cause trouble.”

Woodruff said Marshall Medical Centers currently have 25 positive inpatients between the two facilities. Five are currently in ICU wards in each of the facilities. Three are on ventilators at MMCN and two at MMCS.

“We are very fortunate to have had enough ventilators and equipment to serve our patients and fortunate to have enough personal protection equipment for our staff,” she said. "We have seen 165 admissions since March for COVID. We’ve had 126 discharges. The majority are going home or to rehab facilities. We have had 24 deaths at our hospitals; the majority of those have been over the past two weeks.

“That not something we want for our patients," she added. "It is very sad for everyone... “If you are praying people, keep our staff and employees in your thoughts and prayers.”

Sparks stressed COVID-19 is not a hoax, and it can be controlled using common sense, masks, sanitizing and social distancing.

“We have been fortunate that none of our staff has been infected by other members of the staff,” he said. “We all wear masks all day every day. No one loves to wear these things. But masks work... We work elbow to elbow with each other in our ICU wards and masks work for us. They will work for you as well.”

Gov. Kay Ivey this week extended the safer-at-home order and mask order through the end of August. Residents must wear masks when outside the home, in public or anywhere six feet of social distancing cannot be maintained. All students in second grade through college must also wear a mask when in school.

Woodruff urged residents to be patient and kind when seeking medical attention.

“This pandemic is frustrating for everybody,” she said. “Please remember to be kind... We are all in the same boat. Remember that. Have a little feeling in your heart for the situation that everyone is in.”

Marshall County Emergency Management Agency Director Anita McBurnett said another press conference would be held in about four weeks to update Marshall County residents on the virus and its impact on the county.

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