By Dale Liesch and Gabe Tynes
It’s become a common complaint among people who test positive for COVID-19 that after the diagnosis there’s no direction on what to do next. People head home to quarantine, drink NyQuil and pop ibuprofen. That has some to try to find different ways to both treat and prevent the virus — not all of which mean a trip to the local drug store.
Locally, some are even flocking to feed store counters to seek relief.
Jim Racine, of Racine’s Feed and Garden Supply in Robertsdale, is currently out of a liquid cattle dewormer, but has more on order.
“We’ve sold a little bit more than normal,” he said. “We don’t have any more of the injectable. We sold out about a week or so ago.”
Racine said he doesn’t know why the bovine medicine is suddenly popular. He said he hadn’t heard of rumors that people might be using an active ingredient in the product called ivermectin to combat the coronavirus.
“I hope not,” he said of human use. “It’s made for animals.”
Cecil Christenberry, of Old Tyme Feed and Garden Supply in Fairhope, said the horse and cow dewormer is scarce everywhere nationwide. He’s been sold out for about a month and can’t seem to get a new shipment in.
Ivermectin has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use to fight COVID-19, according to information on the FDA’s website.
“Ivermectin tablets are approved at very specific doses for some parasitic worms, and there are topical formulations for head lice and skin conditions like rosacea,” the website stated. “Ivermectin is not an anti-viral. Taking large doses of this drug is dangerous and can cause serious harm.”
The FDA also stated that ivermectin intended for animal use is prepared differently than when the drug is intended for humans.
The FDA website did claim testing is currently underway to see if Ivermectin can be used to treat COVID-19, but unlike the vaccine that many medical and government officials have basically begun begging residents to get, Ivermectin is not even approved for emergency use by the agency.
“The FDA has not reviewed data to support use of ivermectin in COVID-19 patients to treat or to prevent COVID-19; however, some initial research is underway,” the website stated. “Taking a drug for an unapproved use can be very dangerous. This is true of ivermectin, too.”
Of course, folks fearing the virus or trying to relieve its effects have reached out to more traditional over-the-counter supplements, as well.
Virginia’s Health Foods on Dauphin Street in Mobile is seeing customers come in for immune boosters, like vitamin C, zinc, and vitamin D3, employee Kenny Hardin said. Melatonin is also a popular supplement that helps with sleep, but has found new life as a treatment for those suffering from COVID-19 symptoms, Hardin said.
A supplement called quercetin, which Hardin said can be used to fight hystamines in the body, is also a popular pick among those trying to thwart COVID-19.
Hardin did note that many of those coming into the health food store tend to be more vaccine and mask averse.
The rush for remedies coincides with a continuing increase in the number of COVID-19 cases. Since Sunday, Aug. 1 Mobile County has reported 3,884 new COVID-19 cases. The biggest increases came on Aug. 5 and Aug. 6 with reports of 844 and 874 cases respectively. MCHD reports a 25 percent increase in cases over the past week and a percent positive rate of 24 percent.
The numbers indicate a 47 percent increase in cases in the 18 to 49 age group, MCHD reports.
There are currently 400 COVID-19 patients in local hospitals, Mobile County Health Officer Dr. Bernard Eichold reported to members of the Mobile City Council. For context, there are about 1,100 total hospital beds in Mobile County. Of that number, he estimated as many as 20 of those patients would die from the disease. More than 95 percent of those hospitalizations are from those who are unvaccinated, he said.
Eichold said the COVID-19 vaccination would be fully approved in the next four to six weeks. However, he urged residents not to wait on the vaccine.
One percent of the hospitalizations in Mobile County between March 2020 and August of 2021 are occuring in those 5 to 17. Among those in the 18-to-24 age group the hospitalization percentage increases to 16 percent. Those 50 to 64 years of age make up 24 percent of the hospitalizations and those 65-plus make up 42 percent. There are 15 percent of hospitalizations where age is either unknown or hasn’t been reported, according to the Mobile County Health Department. Less than 1 percent of those hospitalized are under 5.
There have been 11,625 deaths in the state since the start of the pandemic, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. That breaks down to 7,170 in 2020 and 4,455 in 2021.
Mask mandates in schools
Just a few days before classes were scheduled to begin, the Mobile County Board of Education met in a special called meeting Friday to update its COVID-19 policy. Until further notice, masks will be required for all staff, students and visitors on all Mobile County campuses and buses.
The board heard testimony from at least six local health officials who pointed to an ongoing wave of infections, primarily from the Delta variant, which they said is more harmful for children than last year’s Alpha variant.
Mobile County Health Officer Dr. Bernard Eichold told the board COVID was a “very active disease” in Mobile at the moment, with transmission rates up 600 percent from earlier in the summer. Calling it a “serious” and “challenging” situation, Eichold reported there were 367 people hospitalized with COVID in the county today, leaving only 55 of 1,100 hospital beds available for any other patients.
Eichold warned the board a failure to enact a mask mandate could result in the illness or exposure and quarantining of dozens of students at a time. With nearly 60,000 students enrolled, Mobile County is the state’s largest public school system. Baldwin County passed a mask mandate last week and the Mobile Archdiocese announced yesterday masks would be required at its Catholic schools. Faith Academy in Mobile delayed its opening until late August as a result of the latest COVID spike.
Dr. Bill Admire, vice president and chief medical officer at Infirmary Health, said 19 percent of COVID cases nationwide currently are pediatric cases. He added that many children are asymptomatic and thus, can be “superspreaders” among the unvaccinated. Admire said hospitals in the Infirmary Health System, which includes Mobile Infirmary, Thomas Hospital and North Baldwin Infirmary, are nearing capacity. He encouraged the board to require “fundamental” precautions including mask wearing, hygiene and social distancing. Masks in particular, he suggested, were responsible for curtailing influenza and RSV infections last year.
District II board member Don Stringfellow called the pandemic a “kind of nightmare that won’t go away,” noting Fonde Elementary School — which began classes in July — closed this week to sanitize after a spike in infections. Stringfellow said that without a mask mandate, the same would likely happen at other schools.
Superintendent Chresal Threadgill said it was a tough decision, but for the safety of the students, recommended the mask mandate until further notice. The board unanimously approved. Only a handful of parents were on hand in opposition of the mandate, but none were allowed to speak to the board. Classes begin in Mobile County Aug. 11.
Mobile was the last local school district to implement a mask mandate. After its own special meeting July 29, Baldwin County Public Schools announced it would require students, staff and visitors to wear masks through Sept. 10, at least. The policy will be reviewed over Labor Day break for a possible extension.
Pre-K, kindergarten, first grade and students with “an appropriately documented medical reason” are exempt from the mandatory requirement, but are encouraged to wear masks or other suitable face coverings.
In a statement, Superintendent Eddie Tyler said while he is “a big proponent of personal responsibility,” his recommendation to issue the latest mask mandate is the result of a coronavirus variant which “[seems] to be impacting those who are vaccinated and also those under 18, who were once asymptomatic.”
“This change from the COVID variant where children were virtually asymptomatic to this new Delta variant, where children are not only sick but being admitted to ICU, is concerning,” Tyler wrote. “It is simply not worth the risk to not wear a mask. I understand all the reasons not to and two weeks ago, things were different but that’s just the reality of how fast things can change and how honest leaders should respond.”
Masks will also be required for all students, staff and visitors at area Catholic schools, the Archdiocese of Mobile confirmed in a letter on its website last week. In the letter, Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi announced the policy change for grades K-12 about a week after first announcing masks would not be required this year.
“The pandemic remains an ever-changing situation,” Rodi wrote in the letter. “Only recently I announced that masks would not be required for students in grades 7-12. As much as I do not wish to do this, I feel compelled to now alter this and require masks due to the changes in the situation and the new guidance from the CDC and the Alabama Department of Public Health.”
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