Hospitals strained as Alabama sets record high of COVID-19 patients
Alabama suffered its worst yet week of coronavirus numbers over the last seven days, as many hospitals report a significant strain on their ability to provide care two weeks out from the Christmas holiday.
As of Friday afternoon, there were 3,046 COVID-19 patients in Alabama’s hospitals, a new high and a 20% increase from the 2,458 hospitalized patients the state had on Christmas Eve.
Alabama Hospital Association President Don Williamson told WBRC that some hospitals are transferring patients out of state. UAB Hospital said this week they are using hotel rooms for some low-risk patients to make room for more coronavirus cases.
All health officials promise that hospitals are still accepting new patients and individuals should still go to the emergency room if needed.
Alabama’s seven day average of new coronavirus cases sits at 3,035 as of Saturday morning, just below its all-time high. The Alabama Department of Public Health noted this week that some positive tests may be from a backlog of tests performed during the holidays.
Yellowhammer News refers to positive cases as those confirmed by a chemical test performed in a laboratory. When including what the Alabama Department of Public Health calls “probable” cases – those from instant testing devices and other detection methods – the seven-day average rises to 4,863 per day.
State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris and others have repeatedly noted that around 10% of people who contract COVID-19 end up needing hospital care.
One of the risks, according to Williamson, that comes with the ongoing surge in hospitalizations is that many patients are forced to wait longer in the emergency room before they can receive care.
Alabamians are now about two weeks out from the Christmas holiday, and less than that from New Year’s Eve.
Past trends in coronavirus data, and the consensus among experts, indicates that a surge in new cases follows a spreading event by around two weeks. An increase in hospitalizations comes around two weeks after the surge in new cases.
Transmission remains widespread across Alabama; 65 of the state’s 67 counties reported a new case on Saturday. ADPH says Choctaw County is the only county in Alabama considered to have a “low” risk of virus spread.
In the last two weeks 23.51% of Alabama’s coronavirus tests have come back positive, a rate particularly troubling to experts who consider the virus under control if between 1% and 5% of tests come back positive.
There have now been 4,563 confirmed coronavirus deaths in Alabama, with another 736 deaths that ADPH says have a “probable” chance of being caused by COVID-19, but have not yet been confirmed.
Though Alabama is making progress in the administration of the vaccine, experts warn that doses remain in short supply, and the public is best served by continuing to wear masks and maintain social distancing.