HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Huntsville Hospital CEO David Spillers said his team needs more access to in-house testing capabilities.
It was one of his top recommendations to a federal task force visiting north Alabama last week.
Members from the Centers for Disease Control, Health and Human Services, and FEMA met with the mayors, the CEOs from both Huntsville Hospital and Crestwood Medical Center, along with members of the school district.
Spillers said the hospital still has the supplies needed to protect workers and treat patients. He believes the numbers are still manageable.
However, last week, the John Hunt testing site maxed out on Monday and Tuesday at 400 tests. Spillers said because of a major overload in the state lab it is taking about seven days to get results. He asked for the federal task force to consider pool testing for our state, meaning testing multiple specimens at one time.
Emergency Management Director Jeff Birdwell stressed for Madison County to get back on track we need more in-house testing for quick turnaround.
“Huntsville Hospital does in-house testing and basically can get results within 24 hours,” said Birdwell. “Whereas, David has said a number of times, when it is handed off to a private lab it can take five to seven days. The point was made very strongly, if you really want to make a difference in this community, then put the testing materials in the hands of the people who can get the results back quickly.”
Fewer people were tested for COVID-19 in North Alabama last week compared to the week before. Spillers said it is a step in the right direction. He said testing demand is down slightly which he considers to be a positive.
But health officials are still waiting to see the impact from the 4th of July.
“We all knew we would see a rise up because of the 4th of July and there might be some leveling off because there hasn’t been as much social interaction since then,” said Spillers. “I got my fingers crossed masking is going to make a difference. I think statewide masking is going to help this community substantially because we have so many people in and out of our community.”
Over the weekend, the CDC issued new guidelines on re-testing people after they tested positive. The guidelines now state, except for rare situations, coronavirus patients don't need to be tested again after symptoms clear in order to prove they are no longer contagious.
“What they found in their research is after a certain number of days virtually everybody is not shedding the virus,” said Spillers. “About 10 to 12 days out, people are no longer shedding the virus, so they are no longer infectious, so they don’t need another test to prove that.”
The CDC now says as long as you’ve gone 24 hours without a fever after isolation you aren’t likely to infect anyone else. Spillers believes part of the new guidelines may be due to testing demand and a lack of supplies.