Coronavirus patients filling ICU beds

Published 9:28 pm Monday, August 16, 2021

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According to data from the Alabama Department of Public Health, 136 Alabamians died from COVID in the first two weeks of August.

“In a nutshell, the numbers are going the wrong way,” Troy Regional Medical Center CEO Rick Smith said. “All 67 counties in Alabama are at high risk for the spread of COVID.”

In the last week, 89,545 COVID tests have been administered in the state and 20,085 tests were confirmed as positive. Smith said the number COVID diagnoses and hospitalizations around the state is rising at an alarming rate.

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“The number of COVID hospitalizations is stressing the system,” Smith said. “It’s a local, statewide and national problem. When you have that many COVID cases, it takes up all of a hospital’s resources. We’re testing 70 people a day and at the height of the pandemic, we were testing 100 people a day. We’re already back up to 70 and this is just cranking up.”

At the peak of the pandemic, Alabama had 3,084 people hospitalized for COVID on Jan. 11, according to the ADPH. That number fell to 166 people on June 20, but began to rise a few days later. As of Aug. 16, there were 2,631 people hospitalized with COVID — just 453 people less than the pandemic peak.

Early in the pandemic, Alabama had 156 people hospitalized on March 30, 2020, from the COVID Alpha virus. It took 288 days to reach the high mark of 3,084 people hospitalized. Comparatively, the COVID Delta variant took only 67 days to go form 166 hospitalizations on June 20 to the 2,361 people hospitalized on Monday.

According to a Yale Medicine study, “Delta was spreading 50 percent faster than Alpha, which was 50 percent more contagious than the original strain of SARS-CoV-2.”

The rapid increase in hospitalizations has drastically reduced the available resources for hospitals. According to the Alabama Hospital Association, there are only two remaining intensive care unit beds in the state. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization focusing on national health issues, Alabama has 1,870 ICU beds. The AHA also reported the state is also down to 1,225 hospital beds, about 16 percent of the total beds in the state.

On Monday, the total number of ventilators available dropped to 945, a little less than half of the total number of ventilators in the state. This is the lowest number of ventilators available since Feb. 1, 2021.

On Monday, according to the Alabama Hospital Association, there were 2,631 confirmed inpatients with COVID-19. Of the total confirmed:

• 85 percent are unvaccinated

• 12 percent are fully vaccinated

• 3 percent are partially vaccinated.

According to ADPH data, during the past month, the 18 to 24 age group has accounted for 12.6 percent of the COVID cases, while the 25-49 accounted for 41.3 percent and the 50-64 age group accounted for 17.5 percent of the cases.

The total death count for COVID patients under the age of 24 is 1.2 percent, while the 25-49 age group accounts for 13.4 percent of the deaths. In the 50-64 and 65-74 age groups the death count is 27.1 percent and 27.5 percent, respectively, with the 75 and older age group accounting for 30.9 percent of all deaths.

For all deaths, white people accounted for 61.5 percent of all deaths, black or African American people accounted for 17.6 percent of fatalities and 16.4 percent of the fatalities due to COVID were listed as “race unknown.”

While the ADPH lists the total deaths in the last two weeks as 136, the actual death count may be much higher. According to the ADPH, there is an average of two weeks between the time of a COVID-diagnosed death and the time the death is reported to the ADPH.

Other COVID databases have the number of deaths in the last two weeks much higher. According the New York Times database, 262 people in Alabama have died from COVID in the last two weeks and reports the number of August COVID deaths in Alabama as 225.

“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,” Smith said. “Ninety-nine percent of the people contracting COVID are unvaccinated and 85 percent of the people hospitalized are unvaccinated. That should tell you something. Unvaccinated people are spreading the virus.”

According to a June report by Yale Medicine, “In the U.S., there is a disproportionate number of unvaccinated people in Southern and Appalachian states including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri and West Virginia, where vaccination rates are low.”

The same report stated that “people who have not been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are most at risk” and that “the most important thing you can do to protect yourself from Delta is to get fully vaccinated.”