Photo: Etowah County EMA Director Deborah Gaither delivers a COVID-19 update. (Emma Kirkemier/Messenger)
By Emma Kirkemier, Staff Correspondent
The coronavirus death toll for Etowah County rose to 28 confirmed deaths this week.
Emergency Management Agency Director Deborah Gaither delivered an update on COVID-19 to the Gadsden City Council at its meeting Tuesday, Aug. 4.
Gaither said the number of new cases in Etowah County had reached 538 in the previous two weeks, and the death toll rose Tuesday morning. However, as of Tuesday, Aug. 4, the county was experiencing a downward trend in the number of new cases.
“We have gone on a three-day downward [trend], which is good,” Gaither said. “[We are] not out of the woods, not overly excited about just three days, but we want to continue that trend so that things do continue to get better.”
In the interest of continuing that downward trend, Gaither stressed the importance of health and safety precautions being implemented and observed across every demographic, both high-risk demographics and otherwise.
“Right now it seems the death demographics are male, white, ages 65 and up, and closely behind that is females, Black, ages 50-64,” she said. “Both of those are related to weakened immune systems, and that’s due to other health conditions that they have. It’s a mixture. It’s a combination, not a selector of one social status but of many. So we want to make sure that we, across the board, do everything that we can to be safe throughout the rest of the pandemic.”
While the death demographics tended to be ages 50 and up, this was not necessarily so with the demographics of new coronavirus cases.
“The current rate of positives are white females closely followed behind Black females ages 25-49, and we’re still seeing those go up weekly,” Gaither said. “And one of the reasons that we think these numbers are going up for the females is that they’re caregivers. The majority of that age group are caregivers.”
Gaither explained that many women in these populations are “nurses, certified nursing assistants, LPNs — the types of individuals that are working with those that are already ill or sick.” In addition to that, she said, they are likely also caring for children or elderly parents, if not both, when they are at home. Gaither urged caregivers to make sure to take care of their own health.
“Please do what you can to help stop the spread,” she said. “In some cases, when we’re caregiving for someone, we forget what’s important for us.”
The EMA is looking to take care of its own nurses, Gaither said, by limiting drive-through testing to the location in the Health Department parking lot.
“We want to try and take some of the strain off of our nurses, who have had to pick up daily and move to another location,” she said. “Our nurses work 11 different counties, so it’s not just like they work right here. So this will keep them from traveling so much.”
The Etowah County Health Department will be open for testing on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday throughout August from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. The facility is located at 709 East Broad Street in Gadsden and can be contacted at 256-547-6311.
Retesting will not be performed. Gaither said that those who need to retest for COVID-19 in order to return to school or work should go to their own physician.
A complete list of Alabama testing sites can be found at https://dph1.adph.state.al.us/covid-19/.
The Alabama Department of Public Health has also developed an Alabama COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard with an interactive map divided by county that shows, depending on the selected tab, confirmed rates in the last 14 days, cumulative confirmed rates, testing sites and more information.
The website can be viewed at https://www.alabamapublichealth.gov.