Vaccine in Jackson County

Dr. Mandi Allen-Bell, of Scottsboro, receives a COVID vaccination Friday morning.

The first rounds of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine have been released, specifically for front line healthcare workers, EMS and nursing home residents.

On Friday, Highlands Medical Center received 222 doses of the vaccine and administered to their front line healthcare workers. Nursing home resident vaccinations are being administered through CVS per a federal contract to operate onsite vaccination clinics at each facility.

As the number of positive cases continue to climb, Highlands currently has 20 COVID positive inpatients. This is the hospital’s highest number to date, which is over double the surge that came after the July 4 holiday.

This latest surge ties directly into the Thanksgiving holiday.

As of Friday, Jackson County had 4,544 total cases, including 998 reported since Dec. 3.

“Our hospital staff members have worked for nine months without many breaks and are tired,” said Dr. Lonnie Albin, chief medical officer at Highlands. “They are giving it their all each and every day, and we are so grateful and proud of how they are handling this pandemic and each surge.”

Albin said the hospital implemented its surge plan by shutting down elective procedures to use its PACU (patient anesthesia care unit) as an ICU for non-COVID patients in order to keep the two separated and converting a number of patient rooms to negative pressure to prevent the spread of the virus.

Albin added health care workers are starting to get a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel with the introduction of the new vaccines. He said it will be several months before vaccines are available for the general public, likely spring or early summer before an impact from vaccinations on the community spread of the virus.

“We are asking our community to support us by taking extra precautions over the holidays,” said Albin. “Not only do we need to have everyone wearing masks, but we need to be sure they are worn properly, covering both the mouth and the nose. Studies continue to show masks as one of the best tools to use in preventing the spread of the virus.”

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