Marshall County doctors are warning residents to heed the advice and instructions coming down from the Centers for Disease Control, Alabama Department of Public Health and other medical agencies regarding COVID 19, knows as the Corona Virus.
They are warning residents that because they’ve never seen a virus like this, no one really knows what the coming weeks or months may hold.
They are urging everyone to stay home as much as possible, continue to clean, wash hands, limit contact with others and listen to state and federal officials.
The following is the text of a letter written by Marshall County physician Dr. Christopher Manganaris and signed by more than 35 physicians in Marshall County, including several from Arab.
Reading about events in China and Italy, it seems so far away. Six thousand plus people have died in those two countries as of March 19 from a virus we have never heard of until recently.
This number seems low given the number of people that live there. The reports of overwhelmed emergency departments unable to see patients because of high volume and hospitals that do not have enough ventilators for patients in respiratory failure are just stories lost among the politics of everyday life.
In recent days, however, we have started reading about trouble in New York City and New Orleans among other cities in the United States.
New York City hospitals are worried about running out of masks, gowns and other protective equipment in order to take care of sick patients with COVID-19.
New York has cases of this new viral infection increasing daily by the thousands (New York State has more than 15,000 cases.)
New Orleans’ larger hospitals are on diversion (not accepting outside patients) because they are full (Louisiana now has more than 700 cases.)
An illness in countries that seemed far away is now in nearby cities just beyond our own backyards and it makes us pause.
Why are we concerned?
This is not the seasonal flu.
The reason why hospitals are overwhelmed is that we are dealing with a virus we have never been exposed to before, therefore, we do not have immunity to this disease known as COVID-19 (COrona VIrus Disease 2019).
Additionally, the mortality rate (how many people die from the disease) is ranging between 1 and 3.4 percent.
That’s not 1 to 3.4 percent of the population. That’s 1 to 3.4 people out of every 100 people who catch it have died. We know the mortality rate from the flu is only 0.1 percent – 1 out of every 1,000 people who are infected die from it.
We read about a hospitalization rate for COVID-19 to be about 14 percent – that’s 14 people out of 100. In comparison, hospitalization with the flu is only about 2 percent – that’s 2 people out of 100.
We are happy to hear that 81 percent of people who get COVID-19 have only very mild symptoms, but we realize that if everyone in Marshall County (just more than 90,000 people) got COVID-19 at the same time, there would be about 1,000 deaths and 13,000 hospitalizations.
Our community is unable to handle this volume of hospitalizations. Our local health care system would be overwhelmed.
We, as your local doctors, are here to take care of you. Simultaneously, we have serious concerns.
We are concerned that we do not have enough test kits for COVID-19. We are concerned that the wait time for test results for those seriously ill can take up to five days.
We are concerned that we are going to run out of masks, gowns and protective equipment.
We are concerned about those of us who are over 65 and those with chronic illnesses. We know that COVID-19 is likely to be more severe and possibly fatal in these groups of individuals.
We are worried that when we take care of you in this time of a new illness that we may become infected and be unable to help others.
It is a fearful time, and aside from illness, we are saddened by the effect this disease has had and will have on the local economy.
With this being said, we remain hopeful. We are hopeful that by limiting groups and gatherings, we will slow the spread of disease and not overwhelm our healthcare system.
We are hopeful that by Alabama closing schools, venues and sporting events per the Alabama emergency protocol that we will reduce the rate of disease spread aiming to protect the most vulnerable in our community.
We are hopeful that by following the CDC guidelines on hand washing and self quarantine that many of our senior citizens and those with chronic illnesses will stay protected.
We are hopeful that the experimental treatments that are now being tried will save some of us from this illness if we become critically ill.
And, finally, we are hopeful that we can continue to serve and protect you in the best way we know how, through a community of doctors dedicated to your well being.
Even as we write this (Saturday), many of you in the community have come forward with assistance.
Whether donating gloves, masks and gowns to Marshall Medical Centers or sharing food and supplies with those less fortunate, it makes us even more hopeful than ever before that we will pull through this as a community standing together.
Many of Your Marshall County Physicians
Those that have signed on to this letter are:
Dr. Christopher Manganaris, Dr. Lezlie Reed-Johnson, Dr. Victor Sparks, Dr. Randy Stewart, Dr. BC Maze, Dr. John Boggess, Dr. David Chupp, Dr. Gideon Ewing, Dr. Alicia Ewing, Dr. Jon Storey, Dr. Amanda Storey, Dr. Keith “Bo” Morgan, Dr. Lance Justice, Dr. Alan Calhoun, Dr. Tyler Hughes, Dr. Lisa Driskill, Dr. Greg Driskill, Dr. Ryan Pettit, Dr. Katie Pettit, Dr. Cynthia Lyn Monk, Dr. Stephen Britt, Dr. Jenna Carpenter, Dr. Roan Gannon, Dr. Laura Grostic, Dr. Tonya Miller, Dr. Amber Bishop, Dr. Jess Youngblood, Dr. Megan Zeien, Dr. Mark Christensen, Dr. Jonathon Matlock, Dr. Sarah Rhodes, Dr. Stuart Foley, Dr. Morgan Jackson, Dr. Jessica Sparks, Dr. Robert Hargraves, Dr. Joel Milligan, Dr. Clark Alves, Dr. John Crider and Dr. Dustin Bright.