COVID-19, also sometimes referred to as coronavirus, was without a doubt THE news story of 2020, in Marshall County and around the globe.
We came across these stories about the virus and when they were printed in The Advertiser-Gleam as we put together this year's Year in Review.
It certainly gives the timeline and the ebb and flow of the illness for Marshall County.
January 25 – The first local mention of coronavirus was when Marshall Medical Systems announced that it was screening all patients coming into the hospitals before admitting them. At that point, the virus had sickened 450 and killed 17 in China and the first person to have the illness in the United States had just been confirmed by the CDC.
March 4 – Congressman Robert Aderholt penned a column encouraging people not to panic over coronavirus. He said the bottom line was the virus was something to take seriously, but no more so than seasonal flu.
March 11 – Marshall Medical System limited visitors in an effort to protect patients and staff from the possible spread of COVID-19. The first restrictions were no more than 2 visitors per room.
March 14 – Coronavirus had still not been detected in Marshall County. EMA director Anita McBurnett offered some common sense guidelines for dealing with the virus.
March 18 – There were still no COVID cases in Marshall County but the impact was being felt. There was a run on groceries and toilet paper as the nation braced for the precautions being put into place due to the virus.
March 21 – The sheriff’s office began screening visitors before they could be admitted to the facility. The March 31 election runoff was moved to July 14 due to COVID-19 precautions. Youth sports were put on hold. But Lake Guntersville State Park remained open. RSVP closed for distancing. Parole hearings were suspended. 911 limited access to its facilities. Churches began changing how they were holding services.
March 25 –Protective apparel manufacturer Kappler was seeing an uptick in orders due to COVID-19. LifeSouth feared the pandemic was going to impact its number of donors. Many were said to be worried about donating in the age of COVID. Dr. Alicia Ewing spearheaded an effort for local seamstresses to make protective masks. They were calling their group “Masks for Marshall Co.” Marshall Medical prohibited all visitors at the hospitals.
March 28 – Marshall County reported its first 3 cases of COVID-19. COVID was impacting funerals and memorial services as the governor’s orders prohibited gatherings of 25 or more people. Family only graveside services became the new norm.
April 1 – The playground at Civitan Park was shut down. The CVB cancelled the 2020 HydroFest boat races. The Courthouse closed until May 4. Marshall County’s COVID count ticked up to 6 cases.
April 4 – The city schools announced they’d finish the year with virtual learning. The City Council continued meeting, but outdoors. Chief Jim Peterson said it was uncharted territory for law enforcement.
April 8 – The governor’s stay at home order went into effect. Local police agencies said no one really got in trouble for defying the order. Dr. Dustin Bright shared his knowledge about COVID-19, the first in a series of interviews with local doctors about the virus.
April 15 – Huntsville Hospital CEO David Spillars identified Marshall County as north Alabama’s COVID-19 hotspot. 99 people in Marshall County had tested positive at that point.
April 18 – Guntersville Outfitters had just about sold out of bicycles, a phenomena being seen at bike shops around the nation. People were turning to outdoor recreation during the COVID shutdown. Gas prices dropped below $1.50 a gallon, prompting concern from County Commission chair James Hutcheson over future gas tax revenues for the county.
April 25 – The first COVID-related deaths were noted in Marshall County on the ADPH Dashboard, but there was some confusion. At first they reported the county had 4 COVID deaths, then the number dropped to 3. It never was explained. Poultry plants were thought to be a big part of the spread of COVID cases in the county.
April 29 – Business leaders were very concerned that Hispanics were not getting all the information they needed on COVID. Marshall County’s number of positive cases jumped from 150 to over 300 in a matter of days.
May 2 – Members of the Army National Guard donned hazmat suits for a “disinfection mission” at Marshall Manor Nursing Home. While Gov. Ivey was allowing the state to re-open, the County Commission and City of Guntersville were delaying it due to the many COVID cases in the area. Tourism in Guntersville had taken a serious hit.
May 6 – Congressman Aderholt and his wife Caroline had spent the 7-week shutdown at the family cabin in Guntersville. The Courthouse was to re-open May 18, with new measures in place to screen visitors and for social distancing.
May 9 – Sheriff Phil Sims said he would not cite anyone who defied Gov. Kay Ivey’s order not to re-open churches until May 15.
May 13 – Marshall County passed 500 positive cases of COVID-19 just as state restrictions were easing. Refrigerated trucks staged at Carr Funeral Home by the coroner’s office just in case of a wave of COVID deaths were staying put until the numbers flattened, Coroner Cody Nugent said.
May 16 – Guntersville’s downtown businesses were re-opening following the shutdown. The City of Guntersville announced it was re-opening its facilities.
May 20 – There were reports of lots of places gouging customers on the price of protective N95 masks. Mike Jones of Mike’s Merchandise had thousands and thousands of them in stock as part of his regular buying and selling. Mike ended up donating his to frontline health workers who needed them.
May 23 – Families couldn’t come to see the patients at Barfield Health Care due to COVID-19 restrictions. So the facility had a parade for family members. Patients sat outside and families drove by for a visit with social distancing.
May 27 – Funeral homes were finally returning to normal operation after months of limited services
May 30 – There was finally some good news in the county’s COVID-19 situation as the number of new positive cases dropped. There had only been 20 or so new cases in about a week.
June 20 – COVID-19 numbers jumped by 170 cases in a single week. Still, there were not a lot of hospitalizations.
June 24 – COVID cases passed 1,000 in Marshall County, jumping by more than 200 positive cases in a single week.
June 27 – Local health officials held a special meeting in the County Commission chambers to stress 2 important points – wear your mask and keep your distance – after Marshall County’s COVID numbers jumped by 309 in a single week.
July 1 – Marshall Counth had 311 positive COVID cases in a single week.
July 4 – County school superintendent Cindy Wigley was preparing for a possible return to school, stockpiling safety and sanitizing equipment. She was weighing various options for the return to school. Probate Judge Andrea LeCroy had ordered a mountain of protective equipment to prepare for the U.S. Senate runoff election.
July 11 – When Madison County passed a “mask mandate,” the phones rang off the hook at the Marshall County Commission from people wanting to know if they too would require it. Chairman James Hutcheson said they could not legally do that. It’s the State Health Board that sets those rules, County Attorney Clint Maze explained. COVID caused the cancellation of Grant’s annual Mile Plus Yard Sale.
July 15 – SugarFest in Arab was cancelled.
July 18 – Refrigerated trucks called “mobile morgues” had been stationed at Carr Funeral Home in Guntersville by the coroner’s office just in case the COVID death toll got out of hand.
July 22 – The Lions Club’s River Run Car Show had been cancelled. The St. William Seafood Festival was to go on, albeit on a smaller scale due to COVID.
July 25 – Another event bit the dust, a victim of COVID. The Grant Fire Department felt they had no choice but cancel the annual Founders Day event.
Aug. 5 – The city schools delayed the start of school for 2 weeks as teachers prepared for virtual learning and got the supplies needed for returning to school in a pandemic.
Aug. 29 – As teachers prepared for the return of school, so too did school resource officers. The SROs said working in masks – and working with kids wearing masks – would present a real challenge to them.
Sept. 9 – GHS principal Roseanne Mabrey said the “hybrid schedule” offered the best hope of keeping classes going at the high school. The student body was split in half, with students attending in person 2 days and doing work online the other 3.
Sept. 12 – COVID-19 cases were finally trending down. There were only 7 people hospitalized in the county with the virus.
Oct. 21 – After a time of relative quiet in the county regarding COVID, Marshall County’s threat level was elevated once again according to the Department of Public Health’s dashboard. Boyd Duckett said a scarcity of fishing gear was COVID related. There’d been a boom in sales as people forced to stay home by the pandemic turned to outdoor recreation.
Nov. 4 – Contact tracing and the precautionary quarantine that went with it caused both Guntersville High and Cherokee Elementary to go to a virtual format.
Dec. 5 – More ICU beds had been added at the local hospitals by converting the post-anesthesia care units into intensive care units as the hospitals saw a surge in COVID cases.