Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox said he is not currently considering a shutdown, curfew or any other citywide mandate to slow the spread of COVID-19 as area hospitals contend with record-high numbers of patients with the virus.

In a Monday morning virtual meeting hosted by the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, Maddox joined Northport Mayor Bobby Herndon and Andy North, the Vice President of Communications for the DCH System, to discuss the current surge in coronavirus cases.

Maddox said the area is in a precarious position as DCH treats a record-high 127 COVID-19 patients in its hospitals in Tuscaloosa and Northport, but said he is not currently considering using his executive power to address the spike.

Mayor Maddox said his actions would continue to be guided by input and direction from health care professionals and he would only consider taking drastic measures if hospital administrators said they were necessary.

"This would be DCH's call -- if they tell us that they believe our health care system is some way in jeopardy then yes, we will certainly entertain options," Maddox said. "At this point, we have not been advised of such and we're going to continue with the current orders in place by the governor and continue to monitor the situation and be proactive in our stance but certainly we have arrows in our quiver that we can take if DCH needs them to protect our health care system."

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North, speaking for DCH, said although its hospitals are carrying a heavy load, they are not yet overrun. He said months of proactive work have left the system well-positioned to handle surges in the COVID-19 patient population.

"Back in late July and early August, we'd already done a lot of work to prepare for these [spikes in coronavirus cases] but now we are even better prepared and experienced than we ever were before," North said.

The problem, North said, is that every day in a hospital is unique, making it nearly impossible to draw a line in the sand and say a particular number of COVID-19 cases would be too many handle.

For instance, although coronavirus cases in the DCH System are at an all-time high, North said the hospitals are experiencing a very mild flu season, leaving more rooms and resources available to treat COVID-19 patients.

Although the DCH System is able to handle the unprecedented number of coronavirus patients today, that's no guarantee that its hospitals can do so indefinitely.

"Is there a wave that's going to be too much?" North asked. "Possibly."

Herndon, who was sworn in as mayor of Northport last month, said cases are rising across the Black Warrior River, and that around 25 city employees were absent from work Monday morning because of COVID-19 protocols.

He said the city will launch a COVID-19 PSA campaign this week and that he will meet with Maddox at least once a month to keep the area's leadership communicating and collaborating.

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