Decatur Morgan Hospital is continuing to limit visitation and require masks despite a drop in COVID-19 hospitalizations and the end of a statewide mask mandate.
The hospital had three inpatients with the coronavirus Monday afternoon, according to Noel Lovelace, vice president of development at Decatur Morgan Hospital.
“And none of those are on a ventilator,” she said. “That’s a large decrease from Dec. 9 when we had 91 inpatient positives and another 10 under investigation.”
She said that on April 1, the number of positive cases in the hospital was at seven.
“Our number has been hovering around two or three a day,” she said.
Statewide, 323 people were hospitalized with the virus Monday, down from a Jan. 11 peak of 3,084.
Lovelace said the hospital is not letting its guard down as most people in the area remain unvaccinated and health officials warn of more contagious coronavirus variants. Visitors aren’t able to come and go freely at the hospital, but the tough restrictions from 2020 have eased somewhat, she said.
“Two designated visitors — guests, whoever the patient wants — can visit,” she said. “All visitors and staff are required to wear masks and practice social distancing.”
Kelli Powers, CEO of the hospital, said the staff has been anticipating a fourth surge of positive cases after spring break activities. It has not occurred.
“We are encouraged by the very low number of inpatients in our hospital, and are hoping the surge that some are expecting will not happen here,” she said. “We have vaccine available and hope that everyone who has not received it will sign up."
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser for the White House, said he doesn’t believe the U.S. will experience a surge of cases as bad as what was seen three months ago, but he was concerned about a jump in the positivity rate. He said 24 states including New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Jersey are experiencing a spike in positive cases.
Nearly a third of eligible residents in Morgan (32.11%), Limestone (30.74%) and Lawrence (29.29%) counties have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health website. Nearly 63,000 people in the three-county area have received at least one dose of a vaccine, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.
Morgan County has averaged 766 new vaccine shots per day over the last week, with several pharmacies providing vaccines in addition to Decatur Morgan Hospital and the Morgan County Health Department. Limestone County is averaging 667 vaccine doses and Lawrence County is averaging 167 per day over the last week.
Lovelace said people must have an appointment to receive the vaccination at Decatur Morgan Hospital. She said people can call or visit the hospital’s website to register to receive a shot. She said the hospital is administrating the Pfizer injections free at the Parkway Hospital campus.
“We’re encouraging everyone to get the vaccine,” she said. “Our number of positive cases are very, very low. We’re taking appointments Monday through Friday.”
About a month ago, the hospital staff began administering shots to employees at the large companies along the Tennessee River in Decatur.
“We’re eager to partner with any group, church or employer who is wanting to partner with us,” Lovelace said. On April 24, the hospital will be giving injections at Westside Missionary Baptist Church at 909 Fourth St. N.W. in Decatur.
She called the number of vaccinations “great news,” but "we’re still asking individuals to wear masks, social distance and wash their hands.”
The Huntsville Hospital Health System, which includes Decatur Morgan Hospital, issued a statement last week saying it is encouraging people to continue to wear masks even though Gov. Kay Ivey lifted the statewide mask mandate Friday.
“Since safety is our core value, we believe that wearing masks contributes to a safer environment for our patients, employees and communities,” the statement said. “Our decision to continue with COVID-19 precautions aligns with recommendations from the Alabama Hospital Association and the Centers for Disease Control.
"We are thankful that our state is making significant headway in reducing COVID-19 hospitalizations, but there still remain thousands of Alabamians who are waiting to be vaccinated for COVID-19.”