Mask protocol reinstated at ACH
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Now that it’s no longer cruising at pandemic speed, COVID has been mostly forgotten by a large portion of the local, state and national population. But the virus, which held the nation in its grasp for most of three years and killed 82 people in Escambia County, is anything but gone.
Although the number of reported cases across Alabama since late 2022 has been relatively nominal, hospitals and other medical facilities have seen spikes that are indicators the viral villain is still around.
“We’re still seeing cases up at the [Atmore Community] hospital, and we’re still seeing cases at D.W. McMillan [Memorial Hospital in Brewton] as well,” said Jason Daniel, director of public affairs and marketing for Escambia County Healthcare Authority. “You can check on the ADPH (Alabama Department of Public Health) dashboard and see that we’ve had cases in the county, that we’re still having positives [test results]. It’s not something that’s going away.”
Daniel said he doesn’t have immediate access to data showing how many COVID-related admissions have been reported at each county hospital. He also pointed out that many of those stricken with COVID aren’t hospitalized.
“I don’t see the patient totals anymore because [the county] is not at the level we were,” he said. “But it’s not always a ‘test positive and go into the hospital’ situation; it’s a ‘test positive and stay home for seven days’ situation. Then you get better and go back to work.”
ADPH reported through April 5 that only seven cases had been reported in Escambia County this calendar year, with no COVID-caused deaths. Another reason for such a small number of cases is the growing use of home test kits.
“Am I sick with COVID? Or is it I just have a cold? There are a lot of similarities,” Daniel said. “People can still get free at-home tests through postal service — the government is still handing those out. Use them if you think you’ve got it. Test, and if positive, stay at home. Be smart about it.”
He also pointed out that local health officials and medical staff suggest that individuals wear a facemask, although no emergency protocols had been implemented at the time of the March 28 interview.
“Right now, under Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services guidelines, if the community transmission levels drop below high, we’re not required to mask,” Daniel said. “I think everybody is about sick of masks.”
Despite the low number of cases and the general public’s aversion to wearing masks, a person who answered the phone at the local medical facility on Tuesday, April 11, said all visitors and staff members are once again required to wear a facial covering when entering the hospital.