The COVID-19 pandemic has struck Alexander City — yet again.
The virus never went away but cases had stabilized. Now, positive cases are on the rise. With the sick at home and in the hospital and others in quarantine due to close contact of those who were sick, many services across the city are being touched.
“COVID is running rampant through Alex City,” Mayor Woody Baird said. “The burden on the city is huge.”
Baird was at the Alexander City Kiwanis Club weekly lunch Thursday giving an update on issues in the city. The largest at the moment is the COVID-19 pandemic. The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) and Russell Medical are currently reporting an increase in positive cases in Tallapoosa County. ADPH has reported 175 new cases of COVID-19 in Tallapoosa County in the last two weeks. Twenty-three new positive cases were reported Wednesday alone, setting a record for the second highest single day of reported positive cases.
COVID-19 has found the Alexander City Police Department (ACPD). Until last week, its mitigation procedures have prevented any positive cases amongst the department ranks. Now that ACPD is seeing its first officers with the coronavirus, the department’s abilities to serve Alexander City remain intact.
“We have not had any issues with staffing as of yet,” ACPD chief Jay Turner said. “Upon exposure to a positive case, we quarantine for 10 days. We test once at the beginning and then prior to returning to work. Last week was our first experience internally with COVID with two administrative employees testing positive.”
Turner said since the beginning of the pandemic, the department has been vigilant with efforts to prevent the spread of the virus.
“We continuously sanitize the building,” Turner said. “Temperatures are monitored and masks are mandatory.”
Baird said a few of the city’s more than 300 employees have recently tested positive and the city is dealing with those issues.
The spread of the virus through Alexander City affecting Alexander City Schools and its 3,000 students has created a larger issue — childcare.
“We have several husbands and wives who work for the city who have school-age children,” Baird said. “With schools sending students home and moving to the virtual option, it has created other problems. We have employees who are having to take off work because of no childcare.”
Baird said extra efforts are being made to protect city employees.
“Our utility clerks have the highest exposure to the general public as they take payments,” Baird said. “They are there in the lobby of city hall. In an effort to protect them and anyone else in city hall or who comes to city hall we are checking the temperature of everyone who comes in. We are also installing utility payment drop boxes to help minimize foot traffic especially in the lobby to limit exposure.”
Baird said city buildings are being regularly disinfected.
“We are wiping down handrails and doors every night,” Baird said. “We are trying to do everything we can.”
Russell Medical director of marketing Susan Foy said the hospital is seeing more patients affected by COVID-19.
“We have been seeing a steady increase of positive cases over the last week to two weeks,” Foy said. “We are seeing an increase almost parallel to the current increases in the state numbers.”
Russell Medical has seen an increase in hospitalizations due to COVID-19. Foy said Russell Medical’s intensive care unit is full with some COVID-19 positive patients .
Foy said everyone needs to keep following the social distancing and mask wearing guidelines.
“We are seeing some sick patients,” Foy said. “We need to be vigilant and follow the guidelines.”
Baird said not following the protocols could potentially cause COVID-19 to continue to spread in the area forcing school officials to continue virtual learning. COVID-19 could affect more organizations in the area.
“The schools are looking to come back after Thanksgiving,” Baird said. “If people get too relaxed over Thanksgiving with gatherings, we could see another spike within a few weeks. Then there is Christmas and with its gatherings and traditions. To stop it, we must all be sure we are following the protocols.”