Huntsville doctor: Face covers, social distancing critical to stopping COVID-19

single-meta-cal June 19, 2020

Born with Cystic Fibrosis, Huntsville resident James Lawlor is among the vulnerable population at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19.

With cases increasing statewide, Lawlor tries not to go out in public unless it’s absolutely necessary. He said his employer, HudsonAlpha, is allowing and encouraging employees to work from home if able.

“And, fortunately for me, my job is really well suited to working remotely,” he said. “If I have to go out, I put on my mask before I leave the car, and sanitize my hands before and after. If I know I’m going to have to touch a lot of things that might be common, I’ll try to bring some with me.”

Whenever he can, Lawlor physically distances himself from others to avoid a potential spread.

“But I’m really trying to stay out of a lot of places,” he said. “Probably the first public place I went indoors was to get some important bloodwork done. I’ve made a couple trips to big-box home improvement stores early in the morning for things I just couldn’t get curbside, but I’m not planning on making a habit of it.”

COVID-19 reality

Lawlor’s routine during COVID-19 isn’t unusual, especially for individuals who may develop serious complications if they contract the virus.

It’s a routine Dr. Ali Hassoun wishes everyone would embrace until we get this virus under control.

“We, as a community, did really good in the beginning of the outbreak,” he said. “Madison County, Huntsville City have done really well in the way of following guidelines and doing the right thing. I think it’s proven that if we were able to do it during that time, we definitely can do it now.”

Madison County, Huntsville City have done really well in the way of following guidelines and doing the right thing.”

Dr. Hassoun, an infectious disease specialist at Huntsville Hospital, said they’ve seen a significant uptick in the number of COVID-19 cases.

At the beginning of the pandemic, most of the COVID patients he saw were elderly or had comorbidities like heart disease, diabetes or hypertension.

“Now, we’re seeing the younger population getting admitted and some of them are really, really sick with it,” he said. “The ages of the ones I’m seeing are between 20 and 50.”

Managing the spike

Dr. Hassoun said the most common early symptoms of COVID-19 are cough and fever. About 5-7 days later, many will start to have shortness of breath, body aches, a sore throat and more.

They’re also seeing adult patients with severe inflammation that is difficult to control.

“Currently, those who are younger, they don’t necessarily have any comorbidities, but some of them are really sick with it,” he said. “We haven’t yet seen significant deaths, but they’re usually very sick and intubated on the machine.”

Now is the time we’re going to see more cases coming in and it’s probably going to put a lot of pressure on the hospitals.”

Handwashing, avoiding crowds and social distancing are the best ways to avoid getting COVID-19 or passing it to others, Dr. Hassoun said. Wearing a face cover also provides extra protection when you can’t guarantee 6 feet of separation from other people.

With no vaccine and an ongoing shortage of the experimental drug, remdesivir, to treat hospitalized COVID-19 patients, Dr. Hassoun said prevention is key.

“Now is the time we’re going to see more cases coming in and it’s probably going to put a lot of pressure on the hospitals,” he said. “People are talking now about a second wave. I don’t think we even finished the first wave because we really never saw a reduction completely.”

New normal

Like most businesses, Straight to Ale has enforced multiple COVID-19 guidelines since reopening to the public in May.

“We have always had strict sanitation policies in place, but the current restrictions have made us more aware of the flow of traffic in the taproom as well as pinch points where we need to be more careful of customers crowding too close together,” said Marketing Director Kimberly Casey. “We’ve also focused on expanding our outdoor seating areas by adding more socially distant tables and chairs, since people are more comfortable sitting outside.”

Although face coverings are mandatory for staff, Straight to Ale is not requiring customers to wear them at this time. Still, many are doing their part to reduce the risk of contamination.

Related: How to make a cloth face covering during COVID-19

Casey said the health and safety of staff and patrons has always been a top priority. By remaining vigilant, Straight to Ale can help prevent the spread of COVID within its establishment.

“This new normal doesn’t seem like it’s going away anytime soon, and we’re dedicated to continuing to uphold pristine sanitation and health practices,” Casey said.

When Lawlor goes out, he tries to frequent businesses that require face masks and offer drive-through and curbside service. Having and using hand sanitizer and offering touch-free payment are an extra bonus.

Asked what he would say to a low-risk individual not taking COVID-19 seriously, Lawlor has the following message:

“I would say, ‘Please know that there are more COVID-vulnerable people out there than you think, and as much as we try, we can’t completely avoid all contact with society until this is over,”’ he said. “And then, to everyone that IS taking this seriously, I would say: thank you.”

For more information on the City’s coronavirus response, click here.