SHEFFIELD — Keller Hospital President Kyle Buchanan remains cautiously optimistic that COVID-19 cases may be nearing a plateau.
Buchanan said the number of admitted COVID-positive patients at his hospital hasn't changed much in the past week with 33 people remaining hospitalized.
What he has seen is a shift in acuity. "We're seeing much sicker patients," he said.
But Buchanan said there have been some indicators of a plateau, such as the fact that the number of patients hospitalized hasn't gone above the 35 of a week ago.
"I'm not sure if the July Fourth wave is a factor, or perhaps more people in masks is a factor," he said. "Any possible plateau in the community is good news."
As of Saturday afternoon, Colbert County has reported 11 COVID-19 deaths. In the past two weeks, there were 345 positive cases among 1,869 tested. That number is down slightly from 362 from the previous two weeks. There have been a reported 1,050 cases.
Lauderdale County has reported 12 deaths with a 291-case increase the past two weeks, down from 302 reported cases during the previous 14-day period. There have been 1,028 cases in Lauderdale.
Officials with North Alabama Medical Center in Florence did not respond to a request for information Friday afternoon regarding the COVID cases being handled by the Florence hospital.
Gov. Kay Ivey's extension of the state's mask-wearing order through Aug. 31 may soon show an impact, Buchanan said.
He cautioned, however, that masks may be needed in public for the next several months because "we're far from having this behind us."
"There were individuals a month ago who didn't know anyone with COVID, but that's not the case now as we all know COVID-positive people. We're hoping the masks will help," Buchanan said.
Though the ICU-level of care being required for patients is high at Keller, Buchanan said equipment hasn't been a problem because sister hospitals within the Huntsville Hospital System have shared resources, especially during spikes.
Due to the high number of hospitalized patients, Buchanan said there have been waits, but so far it's been manageable.
He said more information is being gained all the time regarding how the virus is impacting people.
"The medical staff here has been phenomenal as they strive for success with their (COVID) patients with a variety of medical interventions and techniques," he said. "We're trying at all costs to avoid putting people on a ventilator."
Buchanan said of the 1,100 employees of the hospital, 23 have tested positive for COVID-19, and none of them have worked directly in the COVID unit.
"I tip my hat to this medical staff and the sacrifices they make daily in dealing with this pandemic," he said. "We all want to see that sustained decline and, hopefully, we'll see things turning around in these next few weeks."