Shelby County coroner shares message following first two COVID-19 deaths

Published 11:37 am Tuesday, March 31, 2020

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By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

It was confirmed on Tuesday morning, March 31, that Shelby County had its first two confirmed deaths from COVID-19, but Shelby County coroner Lina Evans warns it’s just the beginning and that there are more.

Both confirmed deaths happened at Shelby Baptist Medical Center in Alabaster, but Evans said two others have died from complications due to the novel coronavirus at home in North Shelby County that have not yet been confirmed by the Alabama Department of Public Health.

“All of them have had pre-existing conditions,” Evans said. “Either COVID exacerbated those conditions or played a role in the death. I’m not sure if it was pneumonia or heart disease, but it impacted each one.”

That led to Evans sharing the message to stay home, especially if you have underlying conditions that put you at higher risk or if you are older.

“We’re seeing what it’s like worldwide,” she said. “Those people with pre-existing conditions are more susceptible. Not to say everybody shouldn’t take it seriously, but those 65 and older need to be cautious.”

Evans also said that it is just now getting amped up and we need to continue to be very diligent with hand washing and taking the proper precautions. “I know it’s miserable to sit at home and not do anything, but we’re just seeing this getting started,” she said. “We haven’t reached the peak yet.”

One of the reasons for her concern is the lag in reporting official numbers, saying it’s frustrating for her and everyone trying to get information in real time.

Evans said only so many labs are allowed to test and if you’re not an FDA lab, you have to send results to the state to have those tests confirmed.

“That causes a back log, especially with the number of people wanting to be tested,” she said. “Labs and the ADPH are playing catchup, which is why we are lagging in reporting numbers.”

Evans also warned that Shelby County has always followed national trends with other serious problems like homicides, suicides and other medical problems and that battling COVID-19 will be no different.

“We are going to have more deaths with this,” she stated.

While the county currently has 88 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus as of 11:26 a.m. on Tuesday, March 31, she knows there are more that have it and either aren’t getting tested or can’t get tested.

With it being allergy season, some play it off as the pollen or allergies, while others don’t have severe enough symptoms and just think it’s a cold or a mild version of the flu and they just wait it out, she said.

“There are more than 88 that are positive that we just don’t have the resources to test and some aren’t taking it seriously,” Evans said.

While Shelby Baptist hasn’t been as vocal about their patients as other hospitals around the Birmingham area, Evans said they are doing an excellent job of combatting the virus.

“This is a very stressful time for health care workers,” she said. “Shelby Baptist has been more quiet, but they are solely focused on accomplishing everything they need to. They are doing an excellent job. We still have everyday people that need care and are also having to deal with COVID cases. You have to keep all of them separated and they are doing a wonderful job right now.”

While Evans expects the death toll to rise locally, she said the best thing anyone can do is be proactive. If you are experiencing any symptoms, get tested, and if you are having shortness of breath of any kind whether it be distress when breathing, a burning chest, the feeling of someone sitting on your chest or you are coughing uncontrollably, you should seek emergency attention immediately.

“Everyone needs to take this serious,” she said. “It’s not made up and it is not a joke.”