Sen. Doug Jones, Montgomery doctor discuss surge in local COVID-19 cases

Current Work | Thu, 06/18/2020 at 10:59 AM

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) – Montgomery County’s COVID-19 caseload now sits at 3,059 and remains the largest in the state.  Its inability to stem the surge in cases is gaining national traction and the attention of U.S. Senator Doug Jones.

Thursday, Jones held a virtual news conference to update constituents about the virus, and the high transmission rate in Montgomery was a key topic. 

“We’re seeing the dire situation in Alabama and in places like Montgomery where hospital beds are getting scarce,” Jones said. 

Jones encouraged cities that become hot spots to act quickly with local ordinances and orders to attempt to reign in the spread, mentioning that Montgomery's City Council failed to pass a similar measure this week. 

“Mayor Steven Reed had to step in and put an executive order in place,” Jones updated.  “We are still hoping that the city council will review this and perhaps will come to a different conclusion.”

Jones invited one of the physicians, Dr. Nina Garrett, M.D., who spoke to the council before that vote to discuss the situation in Montgomery's hospitals during the news conference.  

“Our ICUs are at capacity,” Garrett stated.  “We have overflow, the ER is capable of housing the ventilated patients and we do have patients who are on ventilators in the emergency department in some of our hospitals.  At Baptist South we have four ICUs that are COVID only patients, those ICUs right now are full.”

Garrett gave assurance that the hospitals have contingency plans to care for anyone who needs medical attention, noting the city still has an ample number of ventilators available. 

She commended Reed for signing the mandatory mask order. 

“It will help mitigate the spread of the disease and it will help us hospital workers catch a breath,” stated Garrett.

She reminded the public that it will likely take weeks if not a month to begin to see some benefit from this mask order. 

“It comes down to education,” she explained. “If a person has been exposed it can be up to seven to fourteen days before they present with symptoms. There’s going to be a lag.” 

Garrett said this measure has been successful in other cities like New York and it ensures you are taking care of your loved ones, your neighbors, and your health care providers.

 “People are putting their lives on the line to take care of COVID patients, the least we can do is wear a face covering,” Garrett stated, mentioning people don’t even have to have a mask; any scarf or cloth covering will be beneficial.  “If you’re going to be ethical, during a pandemic that means doing what is the greatest good for the greatest number of people.  We are asking you to wear a simple face covering, something that is not restricting your rights.” 

Jones updated viewers on the latest effort on the CARES Act, a COVID-19 stimulus package which passed the House.

“It will provide additional money for hospitals, it will provide additional money for research and development, but it also provides money for cities and counties that are now really beginning to feel the pinch from the lost revenues from April and May and also provides hazard pay for our frontline workers,” Jones explained.  “It also provides money to help prop up the Postal Service, there’s a lot of really good provisions in the HEROES Act. Again it’s not perfect, but we should be talking about that and we are not and that’s unfortunate.”

(Jennifer HortonWSFA