Michael Glenn

Glenn

Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling, diagnosed Friday with COVID-19, has held weekly news conferences with public health experts on the virus since March, and now as some of his family members have also tested positive for the virus he regrets failing to follow those experts’ advice.

“We really did our best to practice what we preach and mask and social distance, except with our family. Maybe now there’s a price to pay that we’ll regret,” Bowling, 62, said Monday as he quarantined at his home. “It’s Russian roulette. We enjoyed being with our children and our grandchildren and our son-in-law, but it came with a price.”

Bowling, whose wife Sherry also tested positive, received a monoclonal antibody infusion Sunday, and his wife was scheduled to receive one today. He figures the onset of his mild symptoms — mainly a slight tightness in the chest, a headache and some joint and muscular pain — was about Dec. 29. He had not been at City Hall since Dec. 23, so he does not believe he infected anyone there. He said he’s feeling guilt about the holiday family gatherings with his adult children and their families.

“I made a mistake and spent time with our family. We had Christmas together. We had meals together and sat around the table and we were not practicing the guidelines,” he said. “With that, now we have sickness. I believe that (family members outside our household) were the last to get it, so quite likely they received it from us. I certainly hope they’ll be OK.”

Bowling said his symptoms eased immediately after he began receiving conventional medications prescribed by his family physician, Dr. Rodney Harney. Among the medications were a Z-Pak, a nebulizer solution, zinc, vitamin D-3, aspirin to prevent clotting, vitamin C, and the steroidal medication dexamethasone.

Bowling said he has asthma, which he associates with having been a smoker from the age of 15 to 45, which places him at a higher risk for complications. While his symptoms were mild Monday, he said his doctor is most concerned about the coming days. 

“They say it’s a 14-day virus," Bowling said. "The first week to 10 days it’s a flu-like virus. The second phase, days 7-14, that’s where they worry most about their patients. It’s when the body begins to react. That’s when you can get a cytokine storm. The whole point of the monoclonal infusions is to try to avoid that.”

A cykotine storm is a condition in which the body's immune system starts to attack its own cells and tissues rather than just fighting off the virus.  

The monoclonal antibody infusion Bowling received was granted emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration in November. It is designed to prevent hospitalizations and is not indicated for people who are already on supplemental oxygen or who are hospitalized.

Decatur Morgan Hospital CEO Kelli Powers on Monday said an increasing number of local physicians have been prescribing the monoclonal therapy.

“It is a limited supply. It’s on a first come, first-served basis,” she said. “We are not getting near enough; we get maybe 50 or so doses a week. … I really believe it’s a good thing and has kept some people out of the hospital.”

Bowling said the intravenous medication, which he received at the Parkway campus of Decatur Morgan Hospital, caused him no problems. He said the infusion itself took about an hour but, including preparation time and a mandatory one-hour observation period, the entire process took closer to three hours.

The mayor said he hopes to return to City Hall on Jan. 12, 14 days after the onset of symptoms.

Morgan numbers

Morgan County is in the midst of a COVID-19 spike. On the same day that Bowling tested positive, the Alabama Department of Public Health reported a record high 190 new cases of the virus among Morgan County residents.

“We’re thankful that the holidays are over,” said ADPH assistant administrator for the Northern District Michael Glenn. “We’ve gotten our teeth kicked in over the holiday season.”

Statewide, he said, on Halloween there were 959 people hospitalized with the virus. On Thanksgiving, 1,450 were hospitalized. On Christmas Day, that number increased to 2,403.

On Monday, 3,064 Alabamians were hospitalized with COVID-19.

“That is a tremendous amount of strain on our health care system,” Glenn said.

ADPH reported 10 residents of Morgan County died of COVID-19 in the week ending Monday, bringing the cumulative death toll to 97, and three in every five residents who have tested for the virus over the last two weeks have tested positive for it.

ADPH has reported a total of 11,017 Morgan County cases, and 1,562 were diagnosed in the last 14 days.

Decatur Morgan Hospital president Kelli Powers said the hospital has fewer COVID-19 patients than it had last week.

“I’m happy to announce our numbers are down some. I’m not happy that it’s due to a lot of deaths,” she said at a Monday news conference.

Decatur Morgan had 79 confirmed and 14 presumptive COVID-19 inpatients as of Monday, which is a decrease from the hospital’s all-time high of 96 confirmed COVID-19 inpatients, which it reached last week. The hospital had 12 COVID-19 patients in intensive care Monday, including nine on ventilators.

Both Glenn and Powers said they expected the next spike in local hospitalizations to begin in about two weeks as infections from Christmas and New Year’s gatherings force people to go to the hospital.

“That’s my biggest fear, is that we have patients that need ventilators or medication and we just don’t have any,” Powers said. “I am worried about that.”

Glenn said Morgan County’s positivity rate is the fifth highest in the state. Glenn said anyone who receives a COVID-19 test should assume they have the virus and quarantine until they receive test results.

“Go home and quarantine so that the spread is reduced,” he said.

Vaccine rollout

Glenn said front-line health care workers, including physicians and school nurses, are able to receive COVID-19 vaccines by appointment at health departments.

“All health departments in north Alabama started vaccinating last week. We will continue to do that on a weekly basis as long as we have available staffing. That’s going to be a big chore. You hear that the hospitals are having staffing issues; public health is the same way. We have employees that have either tested positive or been a close contact,” Glenn said.

Glenn said the health department will receive another vaccine allotment this week.

Powers said the hospital received 1,800 doses of the vaccine last week. “Half of that is slated for the health care workers. We did give out 159 of those doses last week,” she said.

Powers said the hospital’s goal is to vaccinate all health care workers by the end of January. One impediment to that goal is staffing. She said 92 Decatur Morgan Hospital staff members were in quarantine Monday.

“I don’t have enough staff to take away from patient care to focus on vaccinating everyone,” Powers said, “so it’s great that the pharmacies and health department and other people are helping us give the vaccine.”

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eric@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2435. Twitter @DD_Fleischauer. Staff Writer Cassie Kuhn contributed to this article.

(1) comment

Bobby Akins

I am sorry for anyone who gets COVID. I pray that all involved will recover quickly without any complications.

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