Mobile hospitals and clinics have tested 490 patients for COVID-19 and have seen 23 positive cases and one death from the disease so far.
Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson confirmed those and other new details about the global pandemics impact on the Port City during a press conference Friday afternoon.
“We’ve had our first death in the county,” Stimpson said. “Our sympathy and prayers go to the family. It’s a very, very sharp reminder that this is here; this is deadly and our advice should not be ignored.”
The advice, Stimpson said, was practice social distancing, wash your hands and stay home whenever possible. Statewide, there have been 604 confirmed cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Alabama and 4,755 people have been tested. It’s believed that eight Alabamians have died from the disease, though health officials have only been able to confirm three of those at this time.
Both Stimpson and doctors representing three of the city’s hospitals believe that, as testing ramps up in the coming days and weeks, the area will continue to see an increase in positive cases.
“We’re going to see more positives as tests come back,” Bill Admire, of Infirmary Health, said.
Admire said Infirmary Health’s hospitals are preparing for an increase in patients by setting up a COVID-19 leadership team and increasing bed and ventilator capacity. The Infirmary has also set up two testing sites at its Diagnostic and Medical Clinics on Springhill and Hillcrest avenues.
The sites are currently testing only those individuals who are “symptomatic” and the tests are by appointment only. The most prominent symptoms with COVID-19 are fatigue, dry dough, fever and shortness of breath. To schedule an appointment, call 251-435-1106.
“The city, the hospitals, the doctors and the nurses, we’re preparing for this,” Admire said. “It’s our job to keep our community safe and it’s our job to help blunt this.”
Dr. Brian Sumrall, of Pulmonary Associates, who handles critical care for patients at Springhill Medical Center, said the hospital is prepared for COVID-19. However, he also said that now is the time for Mobile to take advantage and continue to prepare for the virus.
“We have an advantage because this has not hit us [earlier],” Sumrall said. “We’re fortunate because we’ve had a few weeks to prepare. Springhill Hospital is as prepared as humanly possible.”
Like Admire, Sumrall said experts expect the numbers to get “much, much higher” in the coming weeks. Nationally, epidemiologists have projected Alabama’s COVID-19 epidemic to peak in mid to late April, though those figures are based on predictions made using disease models.
John Stone, of Providence Hospital, said medical staff at the Catholic facility have been preparing for a solid two weeks for the virus, which is about the time Alabama reported its first confirmed case and Gov. Kay Ivey moved to shutter all K-12 public schools.
Stone said testing remains a challenge for Providence, though. That has been true for other medical facilities as well as the city of Mobile, which has been working to secure a large number of test kits to increase local screenings for some time now.
Stimpson said Synergy Laboratories has received a shipment of supplies needed to make swab test kits, and if all go according to plan, those kits could be available for testing sites in Mobile by Wednesday next week. From there, testing will continue to ramp up, Stimpson said.
When asked about his reaction to New Orleans being labeled a “new epicenter” for the disease, Stimpson said he strongly cautions against any travel to the Crescent City.
“You do not need to travel to any hotspot and come home,” he said.
As for limiting border crossing, similar to what Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has announced, Stimpson said it might be necessary in the future.
“I don’t think we’re there yet,” he said.
Earlier on Friday. Gov. Kay Ivey announced additional measures to close many non-essential businesses. She said individual mayors could take steeper measures if they wish. Stimpson said he supports Ivey and doesn’t feel additional measures are needed at the moment.
As for the city’s preparations to this point, Stimpson compared the virus to something Gulf Coast residents are more familiar with.
“It’s like a category 5 hurricane looming in the Gulf,” Stimpson said. “We’re hopeful that in the city of Mobile it’ll be a 2 or a 3. If you do the things we’re asking you to do, we’re hoping we can say we kept the category 5 storm offshore.”
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