MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The number of COVD-19 patients in Alabama hospitals topped 2,000 Sunday, the highest figure the state has seen since January.
Medical officials have blamed low vaccination rates for a rapid rise in cases and hospitalizations as the highly contagious delta variant of the virus spreads throughout the region. One hospital administrator described patients begging to be vaccinated, only to be told that it is too late.
On Sunday, there were 2,047 patients with COVID-19 in state hospitals, including 581 in intensive care units and 300 patients on ventilators, according to numbers provided by the Alabama Hospital Association.
Already full with patients being treated for usual medical ailments like heart attacks, strokes or trauma injuries, Decatur Morgan Hospital also is treating 26 COVID-19 patients, up from 15 last week, president Kelli Powers said during a news conference Monday. The ill included a 38-year-old person who is on a ventilator in intensive care, she said, and the sickest patients infected by the virus aren’t vaccinated.
“We have a lot of people who are on their deathbeds begging for the vaccine, but at that point it’s too late,” she said.
Health care workers are exhausted after months of combatting the illness, she said, and the best way to stem the surge is for more people to get shots.
It’s one thing to care for a patient who got a vaccine and still got COVID-19, she said. “But for someone to just not take the vaccine and then get really, really sick, I think that’s frustrating. But it’s also depressing at some point to know that someone might not live,” Powers said.
The current hospitalization number of 2,047 is far lower than the 3,000 recorded at the peak of the pandemic in January. However, health officials have expressed concern about the steep upward trend. A month ago, there were 247 virus patients in state hospitals, according to numbers compiled from the Alabama Department of Public Health.
According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, the seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Alabama has nearly doubled over the past two weeks from 1,495.00 new cases per day on July 24 to 2,829.14 new cases per day on Aug. 7.
Alabama ranks fifth in the country for new cases per capita, behind Florida, Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi.
The rise in very ill COVID-19 patients has put pressure on intensive care units. Dr. Don Williamson, the former state health officer who now heads the Hospital Association, said there were only 123 vacant intensive care beds in the state Sunday.