HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - As people across North Alabama gather for protests, local leaders want everyone to remember COVID-19 is still present in our community.
Over the last few weeks, the numbers of COVID-19 patients have flattened out in Madison County, but with large groups gathering for protests, leaders are worried those numbers could begin to spike.
The sight of crowds of people protesting together has some health experts concerned there may be a surge in COVID-19 cases over the next few weeks.
Health officials are stressing protesters to wear a face mask. They emphasized all it takes is one large gathering for our hospitals to be overwhelmed.
Some are calling it the perfect storm for creating a second wave, but local leaders said there is so much unknown about the virus it is unclear if it will be as contagious in the summertime.
Trying to maintain space has been difficult for some attending large rallies and not all protesters have been wearing face coverings.
Health officials told us yelling is another way the virus can be transmitted.
Local leaders ask for you to only go to the protests if you are feeling okay. If you are feeling ill, Huntsville Hospital CEO David Spillers said go to the Fever and Flu clinic for a test.
He doesn't believe everyone who attends the protests should be tested for the virus.
“They want to go protest and they are sick, they need to come to the clinic first and let us test them and see if they are positive before they go down there,” said Spillers. “I would hope people wouldn't go down there if they feel bad. But to just do asymptomatic people, I just don't think that would be the most effective use of our resources.”
He expects the numbers to go up in our region as more people are tested.
“We changed from an environment where people weren't even going out of their house to an environment where people are engaging and interacting,” said Spillers. “There is no way it won't go up we just have to make sure it goes up in a manageable rate. Then hope it doesn't convert to inpatients and then hope inpatients don't convert to ventilator patients and people who don't survive the virus.”
There are currently 29 patients in the hospital because of COVID-19 in North Alabama with three people on ventilators.