Dr. Sparks

Dr. Victor Sparks, Director of Marshall Medical Center Emergency Department, says COVID-19 is not a hoax and residents should remain vigilant. 

Local health leaders are “cautiously optimistic” COVID-19 cases are beginning to level out 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 Courthouse in the County Commission Chambers. 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. 

“We are most concerned about the number of cases in the county. But I am 

cautiously optimistic things are getting better.

“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. 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 love 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 6 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.”

Woodruff said one of the hardest decisions made during the pandemic was to close the hospital to all visitors.

“It was a tough decision to make, but one made to protect not only our staff but also our patients,” she said. 

“The more people you let in, the more chance there is for the virus to spread.”

She said nurses and staff members have iPads they use for Zoom meetings between patients and their families at least once a day. Smart phones and landlines are also utilized to keep family members up to date with patient progress. 

Testing is still available at various doctor’s offices, clinics and walk-in facilities, Smith said. Patients are urged not to come to the emergency room for a simple COVID test, but rather to save the ER for true emergencies, such as heart attacks, accidents and breathing issues. 

“If you believe you may have been exposed to someone positive for COVID, wait three or four days for the virus to build up before you go get tested,” Smith said. 

“If you run right out and get tested 30 minutes after you find out someone was positive, you may get a negative test result, only to have symptoms crop up days later. Then you’re going to have to go get another test. And who know how many people you may have exposed in the meantime.

“If it is important enough for you to feel like you need to go out and get tested, stay home until you get the results.”

Marshall County Emergency Management Agency Director Anita McBurnett likened the virus spread to a tornado outbreak. 

“We are all in this together,” she said. “You don’t know where it is going to touch down at, but you know you must prepare accordingly. We need to watch for the symptoms, watch out for one another.”

McBurnett said another press conference will be held in about four weeks to update Marshall County residents on the virus and its impact on the county.

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