Opelika Police Chief sick with COVID-19 says virus is “no joke”

Alabama News

OPELIKA, Ala. (WRBL) – Opelika Police Chief John McEachern confirms he is recovering at home after testing positive for COVID-19. He’s been at home for nearly two weeks and says the virus is “no joke, and really, really rough.” 

Chief McEachern says he believes he’s getting better. The virus has made him extremely ill and is nothing to play around with.  We wish him a speedy recovery.

Meanwhile, East Alabama Medical Center is urging the public to take precautions. They issued the following statement late in the week:

While COVID-19 hospitalizations at EAMC and EAMC-Lanier remain flat, hospital officials anticipate it is just a matter of time before that changes. “When you look at our new cases in Lee County and our new cases in Alabama, it’s highly unlikely we’ll avoid an eventual increase in hospitalizations,” states Laura Grill, EAMC president, and CEO. “In a conference call with the Alabama Hospital Association (AlaHA) yesterday, we learned there had been 954 new cases from the day prior, and a new high in Alabama was set today with 1,129 new cases,” Grill says the other news AlaHA shared was even more alarming. 

“Dr. (Don) Williamson (AlaHA president and CEO) said that Tuesday saw the most COVID-19 hospitalizations yet in Alabama, and that it also marked the most new hospitalizations in one day yet in Alabama. Furthermore, he noted there were 888 ventilators in use. For a frame of reference, the most we had in use at EAMC at one time was 29.” Grill says those numbers are especially troublesome given that the start of a new school year is only six weeks away, and flu season follows shortly thereafter. “As a nation, as a state, and as a community, we must find a way to both contain COVID-19 and go about our daily lives as best as possible,” Grill says. “We were doing okay for a while after the Safe-at-Home restrictions were lifted, but we’re returning to high levels of transmission in the community again. Many of our hospitals in Alabama are overwhelmed right now, and I’m concerned we could soon be right back there with them.”

Grill is again asking for the community’s help to slow the spread of COVID-19. “In early April, when we were peaking with COVID-19 hospitalizations, the community rallied to slow the spread by social distancing, wearing masks, and practicing good hand hygiene. The result was a pretty quick flattening of the curve. While our COVID-19 hospitalizations are manageable right now between 20-25, we need the community’s help to keep that number flat.  We need everyone wearing masks if they need to be out in public, and we need everyone social distancing and washing their hands. Those three simple things can make all the difference.”

Grill says a healthy community and a robust economy can go hand in hand. “We are keeping our staff and patients safe from COVID,” she says. “If COVID-19 hospitalizations remain manageable, they will not have much of an impact on our normal operations. We want to help build back and support a strong economy in east Alabama. Working together with social distancing and wearing a mask in public allows us all to enjoy life in the community while also allowing our physicians and staff to safely care for patients. These safety measures will be vitally important over the July 4th holiday weekend.”   


EAMC’s 528-SICK call center was open 24/7 in March and April, but scaled back its hours when COVID-19 cases in east Alabama slowed in May and early June.  The hours are currently 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday – Friday, but could change if the demand continues to increase. The number of calls and tests has increased each of the past three weeks and is on track to do so again this week. 

On a related note, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) website shows that Lee County tallied 62 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, just three less than the previous two days combined. That figure includes confirmed cases by EAMC as well as other testing locations.  

For confirmed Alabama COVID-19 cases by county, please visit this ADPH link: https://covid19.alabama.gov/#live-updates

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