• 63°

COVID remains serious health threat

The coronavirus pandemic is far from over, and Troy Regional Medical Center Chief Executive Officer Rick Smith said the current surge in cases is putting a strain on local, state and national hospital resources.

According to Smith, the situation is similar to the virus’ previous peak in cases back in the spring. However, this time around, the delta variant is much more contagious.

“The numbers are going the wrong way,” Smith said. “All 67 of Alabama’s counties are high risk. We’re having another surge. There number of COVID patients in hospitals is up 133 percent from last week.

“My view, and possibly my team’s view, is that if you take the vaccine, you have a lot better chance of getting through this. Ninety-nine percent of the people contracting COVID are unvaccinated and 97 percent hospitalized are unvaccinated. That should tell you something. Unvaccinated people are spreading the virus.”

Smith said state numbers show that the hospitalization rate this week increased 133 percent over last week. He said currently, Troy Regional is testing about 70 people a day with a positive rate of about 35 percent.

“At the height of the pandemic, we were testing about 100 people per day,” Smith said. “We’re already back to 70 a day and this is just cranking up.”

Smith said the surge is putting a lot of stress on hospital capacity statewide.

According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, only 73 ICU beds are available statewide — meaning 95 percent of the state’s ICU beds are filled by COVID patients.

In addition, according to the ADPH, 1,025 hospital beds — 13 percent — are available and 1,034 — 54 percent — of the state’s respirators are available.

Smith said the rise in COVID patients is taking up most of the hospitals resources, so there are limited options for emergency patients.

“What happens when you have a car accident or a person with a heart attack,” Smith asked. “All of your beds are filled with COVID patients, so there is no room for emergency patients. You have to send them somewhere else and everybody else is having the same problem.”

Smith said TRMC was urging people to get vaccinated and the hospital is holding walk-in clinics every Friday from 1-4 p.m. The vaccine is free and no appointment is needed. Even if vaccinated, Smith said people should still follow the three W’s.

“Wear your mask, wash your hands and watch your distance,” he said.

Smith said he expected the number of COVID cases to continue to rise.

“It’s actually getting scary,” Smith said. “About 12 to 18 months ago, that coronavirus was affecting older people. This virus it hitting the younger population — 30-40 year olds and it’s also affecting children.”