McCormack: County ‘has done pretty well’ during pandemic

Published 5:46 pm Friday, April 17, 2020

Local leaders and citizens were alarmed Wednesday when confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Dallas County jumped to 21, with two reported deaths from the illness, after days of little movement reported.

As of Friday afternoon, no new cases of the disease had been reported in Dallas County and Vaughan Regional Medical Center (VRMC) CEO David McCormack is hoping Wednesday’s multi-case jump represented the disease’s local crescendo.

“We’re hoping we’re on the downward spike for this,” McCormack said.

According to McCormack, there are currently two COVID-19 patients in the hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU), as well as four others in the hospital’s coronavirus wing, where all patients displaying signs of the disease are treated, one of which has tested positive for the virus – the hospital is still awaiting test results for the other three patients.

The two local deaths from the disease did not occur at the local hospital, McCormack noted that were likely treated elsewhere, such as the University of Alabama -Birmingham (UAB).

“All of our patients, we’ve been able to get them off the ventilators, except for the three we still have here,” McCormack said, noting that the county has likely avoided the worst effects of the disease because people are largely heeding health orders. “I think our county has done pretty well. I’ve been impressed with what people in our county have done.”

For his part, McCormack agrees with plans to begin reopening the economy once Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s “stay at home” order ends later this month, saying that “we’re past needing everything shut down.”

“I think they are going to be cautious in the way they do it,” McCormack said of the state’s forthcoming reopening plans. “But I think we do have to open up, it’s just got to be done in a cautious way.”

McCormack relented that there may be a resurgence of the virus if businesses are open too soon, but said that leaders would then have to “regroup” and try another approach.

“A lot of us could have it and don’t know it,” McCormack said. “But we can’t keep going the way we’re going.”

Like all operations, VRMC has been impacted by the disease, seeing more than a 50 percent drop in emergency room visits since the outbreak started.

“That’s not unique to Vaughan,” McCormack said. “They’re seeing that all across the country.”

McCormack noted another unexpected and tragic result of the pandemic: people are dying at home of heart attacks and other treatable illnesses out of a fear of contracting COVID-19 if they seek treatment at a hospital.

But so far, according to McCormack, no staff at VRMC has been infected with the disease and the hospital is safe for those in need.

“Our clinical teams are trained on the proper procedures and protocols to minimize the risk of spreading any infectious disease, including COVID-19,” McCormack said, noting that the hospital immediately implements infectious control measures, as prescribed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for any patient suspected of having the disease.