Hoover and Mountain Brook not immune from Coronavirus

Frank McPhillips
Frank McPhillips

Today’s guest columnist is Frank McPhillips.

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If you live in a leafy over-the-mountain community, you might think you have nothing to worry about when it comes to COVID-19.

The argument goes like this: the coronavirus won’t bother me because I don’t belong to an at-risk population.

That only happens to “other people”, like poor and disadvantaged minorities, or elderly people, or people who live or work in confined settings, like prisoners and people who work in nursing homes and chicken processing plants.

That’s why data recently made available by the Jefferson County Health Department (JCHD) may surprise a lot of people. The data suggest if you live in Vestavia, Mountain Brook, or Hoover, your chances of contracting COVID-19 are as great, or greater, than they are if you live in downtown or North Birmingham.

Below is a table showing selected data extracted from the JCHD database as of June 26.  (The data changes daily) Racial demographics are extracted from the 2010 Census:

Region Zip Codes Neighborhoods Racial Composition Infection Rate(per 10K)
2 35226 Bluff Park B-13%;W-84%;O-3% 53.19
Patton Chapel
CC-Highlands

 

11 35173 Hewitt-Trussville

 

B-6%; W-90% 40.83
6 35213 Mtn. Brook/Redmont B-13%;W-84%;O-3% 41.96
35223 Forest Park
35222

 

1 35244

 

Riverchase Galleria B-15%;W-75%;O-10% 49.87
24 35205 Glen Iris/ 5 Pts B-32%;W-55%;O-13% 30.90
35233 UAB/Southside

 

25 35204 No. Birmingham B-81%; W-15%; O-4% 29.48
35203 Fountain Heights
35234 Norwood, Smithfield
35254

 

Central City
3 35216

 

Vestavia Hills B-19%;W-67%;O-14% 41.79
23 35209 Homewood B-27%;W-61%;O-12% 34.79
35229 Green Springs

The table above reveals that the infection rate among residents of downtown Birmingham and North Birmingham is significantly lower than virtually all suburban communities, including Mountain Brook, Homewood, Vestavia Hills, Hewitt-Trussville, and Hoover.

After taking into account the street protests in North Birmingham, where most protesters wore masks but social distancing was rarely observed, the City’s low infection rate may seem all the more surprising.

In Region 25, which includes the Fountain Heights, Smithfield and Norwood neighborhoods of North Birmingham, the rate of infection stands at 29.48. Meanwhile, the infection rate in Region 24 (Birmingham’s Southside, Glen Iris and UAB areas) is 30.90, only marginally higher than in North Birmingham.

The  infection rate in Region 2, the heart of Hoover, which includes Bluff Park, Patton Chapel Road and Country Club of Highlands is 53.19. Hoover’s rate is 80% higher than North Birmingham and 72% higher than the Southside of Birmingham.

Likewise, the infection rate of Region 1, where the Riverchase Galleria is located, is 49.87, or 69% higher than North Birmingham and 61% higher than Southside.

Region 6 offers another stark contrast. In the affluent communities of Forest Park, Redmont and Mountain Brook, the rate of infection is 41.96, which is 42% higher than North Birmingham and 36% higher than Southside.

In Region 11, which includes all of Hewitt-Trussville, the infection rate is 40.83, fully 39% higher than North Birmingham and 32% higher than Southside.

An inescapable conclusion from this data is that the coronavirus makes no distinction between black and white America, or urban and suburban America but does distinguish between responsible vs. irresponsible America. Smart policy promoting responsible behavior saves lives.

The City of Birmingham is the only jurisdiction in Jefferson County to enact an ordinance mandating masks to be worn in public. Surrounding municipalities in Jefferson County have not done so, even though infectious disease experts all say that wearing a mask is the single most important action that can reduce the spread of the deadly virus. Communities of color have been especially hard-hit by the virus, so Birmingham acted responsibly by adopting a mask ordinance.

The failure of neighboring municipalities to follow suit is both nonsensical and deeply destructive because it undermines any hope of pursuing a coherent regional strategy against the virus. The Tri-State area surrounding New York City has proven that an aggressive and consistent regional strategy is critical to the defeat of the coronavirus. And, the cornerstone of an effective regional strategy is the adoption of a uniform and mandatory mask ordinance.

Jefferson County has experienced record new cases of COVID-19. On June 26, 149 new cases were reported in the county, shattering the previous daily record. New cases are inevitably followed by a spike in new hospitalizations up to a week or two later, which are then followed by a spike in deaths a short time after that. The only way to interrupt this vicious cycle is to stop human to human transmission. The only way to stop transmission of this highly contagious virus is for the vast majority of people in an area to wear a mask.

As the JCHD data has shown, there is no safe haven from this deadly disease. The coronavirus does not respect geographic boundaries or racial differences. We are all trapped in this pandemic together … and we must fight it together. Wear a mask – and convince your friends and family to do the same!

Frank McPhillips is a recently retired attorney, devoted husband and father of three adult sons. Frank graduated with honors from Harvard College and the University of Virginia Law School, and has proudly resided in Birmingham, with his wife Louise, for 40 years. He has served on the boards of numerous nonprofit organizations, including Advent Episcopal School, Impact America and Alabama Appleseed.

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David Sher is Co-Founder of AmSher Compassionate Collections.  He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).

Invite David to speak for free to your group about how we can have a more prosperous metro Birmingham. dsher@amsher.com.

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16 thoughts on “Hoover and Mountain Brook not immune from Coronavirus”

  1. It is the careless behavior that is behind thinking you can believe mistaken ideas. Improper/misleading statements can cause dangerous actions to occur, and that seems to be what is being explained so well here.

    Newly invented terminology does not help.
    For example, now a constant one is ‘social distancing!’ Think about it. That is totally random and could even be under stood as meaning the a large tightly gathered crowd some distance away from another tightly gathered crowd is safe. It should have been “personal separation’ or ‘staying away from other people.’ ‘Quarantine’ is pretty clear. Even thought you might not like to wearing a mask is more important than many people realize.

    Therefore danger continues, expands until all the careless people die or kill others. STAY SAFE AND HEALTHY

    1. Wearing a mask is ultra-important as well. Not wearing one, is actually showing a lack of concern for others, more than your self. A mask benefits other people more than the individual, thus everyone should just to keep from spreading a disease that kills, and you many not even know you are a carrier. We need a national safety campaign. It’s as important as wearing a seatbelt, the difference is the seatbelt protects the individual. A mask protects everyone. Do you REALLY care for others?

  2. I have seen both these areas(I live in Hoover) the most compliant with wearing masks. I’m not sure why the stats show what they do,but as a medical professional I am more aware of compliance than most. Maybe it is a higher patient testing volume? I feel that this forum loves to belittle the over the mountain community which is really a shame since the nicest and most helpful people live here…..

    1. Nicest and most helpful?? You mean the people who sit back from their suburbs and attack the city of Birmingham anytime they get an opportunity? The people that act like they’re too good for the city of Birmingham?? And here you are attacking the information given to suggest people are belittling your precious OTM community… Same ole attitudes that keep this region separated, and from being as great as it really should be.

  3. A great number of the careless protesters were privileged suburban white college aged kids.

    It stands to reason they picked up COVID and then spread it to their more vulnerable neighbors and relatives.

  4. Surely someone with the educational background as your guest could understand the basic flaw in his reasoning. He didn’t discuss the percentage of residents tested. His comments are reckless and promote hysteria. If ten people are tested in Fountain Heights and two are positive while 100 are tested in Vestavia and 10 are positive the per capita number based on that data will be wrong without the adjustment for number tested. The CDC released information yesterday that allows for that adjustment that show the recovery rate is greater than 99%.
    The editor is also responsible for allowing such misleading information to be published in this forum and should take it down or correct it.

    1. I agree with S Elliott that the author’s reasoning. is fatally flawed. I do not agree that any form of social media should correct or censor his opinions. That includes Twitter, Facebook, et al. who are constantly censoring opinions different from theirs. We need a rigorous debate on every issue to get as close to the truth as humans can.

    2. The opportunity to be tested is more available to people of privilege, who have greater resources and greater access (time off from work, transportation to testing sites, etc.) . That may explain some of the differences in the infection rates, but think about it: that’s no reason to celebrate the fact that in some zip codes, rates cited could be deceptively low.
      The bottom line: we should each do whatever we can, within our means, to protect ourselves and our communities…and the greater metropolitan area of Birmingham should be considered our “community.” After all, if you believe that infection rates are higher than indicated in this comparison chart, please remember that those undiagnosed/undercounted people are probably working for you (retail stores, delivery people, etc.), and you and your families are indeed exposed to them (and are exposing them). Bottom line: wear a mask, and stay at home as much as you are privileged to be able to do so.

    3. The positivity rate (i.e. the percentage of tests that were positive) has increased throughout Jefferson County for 21 consecutive days, which is one of the reasons the JeffCo Health Officer issued the order requiring face coverings. The JCHD database does not break down the positivity rate by zip code, so the rate of infection in the entire population (as opposed to the tested population) is the best data we have. If you live in a neighborhood where there are twice as many infected people as another neighborhood, it should be obvious your chances of getting infected are higher. My educational background has nothing to do with it.

      1. Thank you for your article. The central idea is in the thought process, I think. I have observed that when I shopped in a Vestavia Hills business, I noted very few face masks being worn. The owner was not wearing one. I mentioned to her my concern, and her reply gives credence to the attitude with which you speak: “Oh, we are not in Birmingham. We are in Vestavia Hills! We don’t have to wear a mask!” said with an attitude of privilege.

  5. The infection rate means nothing. A lot of us catch the common cold and then get well. The DEATH rate from the virus du jour shot straight up and has now dropped almost as fast.

    1. The death rate lags behind the infection rate. The reporting time takes longer, and those who are infected often live several days or a couple of weeks before they die. If you will continue to observe, I believe the death rate will also rise. In addition to this information, there are more young people who are testing positive, then exposing others who are more vulnerable.

      My first statement about the deaths lagging behind is factual. I worked at a major medical center and audited the charts of people who had died. The statistics of deaths were reported EVERY MONTH.

      The second statement is true as regards to the young people. However, spreading it to more vulnerable people is my opinion.

  6. I agree with D Ellis that opinion pieces should not be edited for position. However, it is proper for a platform to post corrections to things stated as fact that are simply incorrect. The statement, “The data suggest if you live in Vestavia, Mountain Brook, or Hoover, your chances of contracting COVID-19 are as great, or greater, than they are if you live in downtown or North Birmingham.” is simply incorrect. The data put forth inadequately supports such a claim.
    Also just as reckless is his seeming statement of fact that, “New cases are inevitably followed by a spike in new hospitalizations up to a week or two later, which are then followed by a spike in deaths a short time after that”. That Position is not only not arguable, the raw complete data shows quite the opposite over the last four weeks.

  7. Another possible partial explanation might be that whereas a large number of city inhabitants may be confined to their community, over-the-mountain inhabitants may be more likely to have the means to travel to the beach and elsewhere, visit restaurants, or socialize with those who do.

  8. I live in a “leafy” OTM area and I don’t know a single person who thinks anyone is immune to the virus. I understand your intent is to promote the need for using masks in public which is great. However I find your manner of communicating your intent quite judgmental and divisive in a time when that is the last thing the Bham area communities need.

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