Still bad

Masks are down but doctors say COVID-19 ready to strike again

By Allison Marlow
Posted 10/1/21

Critical to bad. That is the current state of COVID-19 in Baldwin County.

Yes, Alabama’s numbers have improved significantly over the past two weeks, but the gains made are not a sweeping …

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Still bad

Masks are down but doctors say COVID-19 ready to strike again

Posted

Critical to bad. That is the current state of COVID-19 in Baldwin County.

Yes, Alabama’s numbers have improved significantly over the past two weeks, but the gains made are not a sweeping win over the disease, said Daren Scroggie, VP/CMIO Infirmary Health and Associate Program Director Internal Medicine Residency.

The drop in case numbers is encouraging, he said, but are no reason to stop the mitigating efforts that helped to cause that decrease.

“The strategies that have been put in place have worked to control the rate of spread,” he said. “It is difficult to predict how the disease will spread but the good news is that we have slowed it down significantly.”

Slowed it, but not stopped it. That, Scroggie said, is the key point.

“The efforts we have made have worked.  If we stop doing them and drop our guard, there is a very real risk that it can rebound,” he said. “It can be difficult to know for sure when the best time to relax is, but in general when we have strategies that are working, we need to continue them until we are farther out of the woods.”

The Delta variant of COVID-19 ripped across much of the planet this summer causing deaths to skyrocket after a maskless spring that began to feel normal in some areas.

In Baldwin County, a summer of hope turned into one of disease as the number of daily cases soared above the highest reported in the first year of the pandemic.

On Jan. 4, 2021, during a post-holiday surge, the number of daily cases hit 280. That number was bested on Aug. 2, 2021 when cases soared to 370. An all-time, one-day high of 406 cases in Baldwin was reached on Aug. 17.

Every day in August, Baldwin County saw a minimum of 280 new cases of COVID-19.

In September, cases in Baldwin County have steadily declined, slowing to 54 new cases on Sept. 27.

Now that the numbers have dropped, many people have also dropped the mask use, including Baldwin County Schools and Gulf Shores City Schools which drew the ire of some parents after requiring the use of masks at the start of the school year.

A letter to parents from Baldwin County School Superintendent Eddie Tyler said the drop in case numbers at the schools, in addition to dwindling hospitalizations, led to the change.

A total of 640 cases were reported among Baldwin County Schools the week of Aug. 23 – 27. There were 38 cases reported in Gulf Shores City Schools during those dates.

During the week ending Sept. 23, there were 98 cases reported across Baldwin County Schools and 13 in Gulf Shores City Schools.

This week the Alabama Department of Public Health issued a statement urging the continued use of masks in schools.

The release read, “Consistent and correct mask use in schools has helped reduce the number of cases of COVID-19, helped schools remain open to in-person learning in Alabama, and helped prevent the consequences of this serious disease.”


ADPH reported that almost 23 percent of COVID-19 cases in Alabama are in the 0-17 age group and, of that number, almost 18 percent of cases are in school-age children. As of Sept. 27, at least 30 children were hospitalized in Alabama for COVID-19 and three were on ventilators.

Last year before the spread of the Delta variant the number of children infected with the disease barely registered on the state’s charts.

Local officials have said danger may linger on the horizon. In his letter to parents, Tyler stressed that a return to masks may be imminent as holiday travels help spur the spread of the virus again.

Scroggie also said doctors expect an increase in cases after the holidays as people travel, mingle in large groups and ignore mitigation efforts such as social distancing and masking. Unfortunately, he said, the move to return to masking often comes too late for some.

“There is usually a delay before we see increased symptomatic infections and hospitalizations,” Scroggie said. “By the time you realize that and reinstate masks and social distancing, the outbreak has already spread and you have to work to contain it again.”

Scroggie said continued refusals by large portions of the population to mask, follow COVID-19 protocols or take the vaccine have dimmed the opportunities to destroy it.

“Because it has not been contained and has been allowed to spread and mutate, we have less of a chance now to eradicate it,” he said. “If we had vaccinated people early on, then the virus would not have had a chance to mutate and become more infectious.  

“It is still possible to develop vaccines/boosters that are more universal and that would help bring it under control, but only if people get them,” he said. “The existing vaccines are effective and if more people were vaccinated, it would be much easier to contain the virus and perhaps eradicate it.”