MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Alabama hospitals are under stress. The number of patients requiring hospital care for COVID-19 broke a new inpatient record Tuesday, marking the sixth consecutive day of record highs.
Alabama Public Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris says hospital capacity is a chief concern.
“As of this morning around 200 ICU beds are left in the entire state,” Harris explained. “The numbers have been higher every single day and it’s just not sustainable. There’s only so much longer we can go on seeing these kind of increases.”
Generally hospital numbers go up around three weeks after a major transmission event. In this case, the hospitalization records are likely being pushed by those who contracted the virus over the 4th of July weekend.
“We’re seeing that now,” stated Harris. “We’re into the third week and while we can’t predict, what we have learned from past experiences is that deaths tend to follow that. We’ll know more in the next seven to 10 days. I certainly hope it doesn’t get any worse.”
Hospitals in the Birmingham and Huntsville areas are taking a direct hit. UAB reported a new impatient record of 105 on Tuesday. Baptist Health reported 107 inpatients today, 20 fewer patients than its record set in early June.
“We’re not like we were a month ago, but we still have pretty good numbers in Montgomery,” stated Harris.
Weeks ago, Dr. Don Williamson, Executive Director of the Alabama Hospital Association, issued a clarion call for residents to wear a mask, attempting to warn the public about the likely increase in hospitalization numbers ahead of the start of the school year and flu season.
The threat of the virus is causing some to delay hospital care, doctors encourage sick patients not to wait. Overall, providers say the patients seeking emergency medical care are sicker, including those with and without the virus.
"The numbers, which are preliminary, at least nationally suggest that people are dying out of the hospital at a rate that's higher than we would normally expect, and that includes people not dying from COVID-19 but dying from other things."
Governor Kay Ivey implemented a mandatory mask order last week; it will likely take at least another week before the state could realize any impact. If the hospital numbers don’t decrease, closing sectors of the economy would be one of the only remaining options to mitigate virus transmission.