MARCH 25, 2020 VIRTUAL TUSCALOOSA TOWN HALL MEETING, ABBREVIATED

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Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox’s second virtual town hall meeting happened Wednesday at 3 p.m. Here’s an abbreviated rundown of everything that happened.

Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox’s second virtual town hall meeting happened Wednesday at 3 p.m. Here’s an abbreviated rundown of everything that happened.

Flu vs. COVID-19

Maddox opened the meeting with Drs. Timothy Blake Lovely and Robin Wilson, who work for DCH Health System.

Lovely and Wilson said there’s a big difference between the common flu and COVID-19, based on how they spread. While the flu spreads from person to person, someone infected with COVID-19 will infect an average of 2.5 people.

It’s a deadlier virus than the flu, with people on average 10 times more likely to die than from the flu.

What’s DCH Doing to Combat Spread?

DCH has been proactive and has limited visitation, limited the number of entrances and are screening people as they come in. They’ve also added ventilators and have prepared rooms for residents with the virus.

Preparing for More

“This is what we do, this is what our staff is trained for,” Wilson said.

What do You do When Someone Comes in with Symptoms?

There’s a designated area of the ER for people who are presenting with coronavirus symptoms, and there is a nurse present outside the ER evaluating patients and visitors before they enter the hospital. Anyone with coronavirus symptoms will be taken to a special location to wait for examination and treatment.

Coronavirus Symptoms

Fever, dry cough, shortness of breath. If you develop shortness of breath, that’s when you need to call a doctor.

Up to 80% of patients are asymptomatic or have minimal symptoms.

On Ventilators

DCH has close to 80 ventilators to use if needed.

Are children more protected from the virus?

There have been some young children critically ill from this. Average age of someone in Alabama with coronavirus is 42.

Testing

Swabs were not widely available when testing started, which led to the botched sputum tests. Swabs are available now.

False negatives

There’s a 30% false negative rate, so you need to be symptom free for three days or have two negative tests 24 hours apart before you’re clear, or you need to stay in quarantine for 14 days.

Why is this not Considered an Overreaction?

The numbers are scary if you look internationally, and some cities in the country are already close to the breaking point. DCH is braced for the impact of coronavirus, and it’s important for the whole community to stay home as much as you can and avoid contact with other people.

How Long Will this Last?

At least 8 weeks, minimum. DCH is prepared and they’re stocked up on personal protective equipment for health care workers.

If someone has an unsatisfactory test, what do they do?

DCH is calling everyone who was impacted.

Data Points:

Where Tuscaloosa stands – 10 people confirmed positive is five days old.

If we take no action, it’s estimated 70% of community will be infected. In Tuscaloosa that could result in 3,686 deaths.

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There are 593 beds at DCH, and 204 more at DCH Northport. Of those, 64 are ICU beds.

 Question and answer portion:

  • Will you propose a shelter-in-place for Tuscaloosa like Mayor Woodfin did for Birmingham? If so, at what point will you propose it? Will it be proactive or reactive?
    • There are differences between what Birmingham can do and what Tuscaloosa can do, legally speaking. Birmingham can and did pass a shelter in place ordinance. Tuscaloosa does not have the legal authority to do that until the Alabama Department of Public Health designates it.
  • I work at a small business where there are only a few customers at a time? Can we stay open during the quarantine?
    • Tuscaloosa is not under quarantine. Businesses can stay open as long as they follow Alabama Department of Public Health rules (less than 25 people in room, 6 feet of distance between people) and the city curfew effective Friday.
  • Will schools be reopening April 6, even though the virus is not contained?
    • That’s up to the state superintendent and state board of education.
  • Do you think schools will return? What about community colleges?
    • Probably not before the end of the semester.
  • If the schools don’t reopen for the rest of the year, how will that impact graduation credits?
    • That’s up to the state superintendent and state board of education.
  • What will be the financial impact to the city if the University of Alabama does not reopen on-campus classes in the fall?
    • City is working with UA to get an exact economic study, but it would be a big impact. As of this week, it’s at least half a million dollars a week in revenue for the city of Tuscaloosa.
  • Are financial institutions considered essential? The employees have exposure to the public. If they are not essential, can they be forced to close?
    • City cannot force businesses to close. Most financial institutions won’t fall under the curfew because it’s from 10 p.m. to   5 a.m., but businesses do have to follow ADPH guidelines. Businesses should figure out plans on how to limit capacity and ensure workers and customers are protected.
  • Can the locations of the confirmed cases in Tuscaloosa be made public so people can know who to protect themselves from or if they’ve been exposed?
    • City can’t release any names or locations because of patient identification protection laws.
  • Since the local government does not have the authority to do so, can you request the state close non-essential businesses in Tuscaloosa?
    • City is working with the governor’s office to discuss options.
  • Can we take advantage of the light traffic and expedite construction?
    • On city projects, yes. City does not have authority over Alabama Department of Transportation projects like Lurleen Wallace and Interstate 20/59.
  • Alabama is currently ranked 4th in the country and Tuscaloosa is ranked 5th in the state for failing social distancing. What measures are you prepared to take to ensure the safety of your citizens?
    • Unsure where this data is from, but city has activated incident command system, announced curfew, created platforms to speak to people of Tuscaloosa and disseminate information.
  • What are you doing to help protect your police officers?
    • Safety of our employees is paramount. Incident command working with 911 and protocols for infectious diseases. Dispatch can notify first responders of possible exposure, so workers know to put on personal protective equipment in their response.
  • Are Tuscaloosa Amphitheater shows canceled through April? If so, how do we request a refund?
    • The shows scheduled for April have been rescheduled.
  • For those who can’t work and cannot pay our bills, can you waive our water, power and rent bills?
    • City does not have the authority to waive rent or power bills, but has implemented a 60-day grace period on cutoffs for water and sewer. Maddox has authority to extend that if pandemic continues.
  • Under the new order by Gov. Kay Ivey and the Alabama Department of Public Health, are we still able to go and get a haircut?
    • Yes, if the business is maintaining ADPH rules.
  • I am still forced to go into work and my employer does not take this pandemic and protective measures like social distancing seriously. What can I do to protect myself?
    • By executive order, Tuscaloosa has implemented and is enforcing the state health officer’s order which requires less than 25 people in a space and at least 6 feet of social distancing. Do your best to create the 6-foot distance.
  • Is it possible we will have a citywide curfew? If so, how will that help the issue?
    • Just enacted one, Friday-April 3 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. The city will be evaluating its effectiveness and it will be expanded if required.
  • Is there a mandate that closed all gym and fitness facilities? If not why isn’t there?
    • Public facilities owned by city are closed. Privately owned gyms must abide by ADPH order. Gyms can continue to operate as long as they abide by ADPH orders. We encourage all gyms to practice routine cleaning. Mayor does not have the power to force businesses to close.
  • Is there a restriction on travel?
    • Outside the curfew, no.
  • Will public transportation continue to run during this time?
    • Yes, with stringent cleaning schedules.
  • Are we receiving help from the National Guard? What will they assist in?
    • Not yet, but it’s a possibility. If they are called to help, they would likely be used as medical assistance.
  • You say groups of 25 yet the CDC says groups of 10. Can you explain this?
    • City is required to follow ADPH guidelines, which is 25. CDC guideline is also still 25, 10 is president’s suggestion.
  • DCH has reported they have been testing wrong. So what will be done for the patients who have tested and results were negative?
    • DCH tests were deemed not usable. DCH patients with inconclusive results are being contacted.
  • Can funeral homes be fined for carrying out a service at which more than 25 people attend?
    • Yes.
  • What are you doing to protect small businesses from shutting down?
    • Working on continuum from least to most restrictive based of what city gets from ADPH and experts in the field. Have to keep small businesses move forward. Preparing a plan for city council Tuesday.

Watch the full town hall below.

https://www.facebook.com/TuscaloosaCity/videos/501720307171905/

 

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Categories: COVID-19, Local News