UAB doctors: ‘Wear a mask’; COVID-19 hospitalizations at record high
Two high ranking doctors at UAB Hospital, along with the Jefferson County Health Officer, held a press conference Monday where they urged all Alabamians to wear face coverings in public as coronavirus hospitalizations mount across Alabama.
UAB Hospital is now currently caring for 68 COVID-19 patients, an all-time high. The previous high was 63 in the first week of April, and the number had dipped as low as 37 in the intervening weeks.
“People ask about a second wave here, and I’ve been saying, we never stopped having the first wave,” said Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, director of UAB’s Division of Infectious Diseases.
Another area of concern for the state’s infectious disease doctors is the lack of treatment options for COVID-19 cases severe enough to require hospitalization.
“We now only have one emergently approved antiviral to treat this infection with,” said Marrazzo on Monday.
The infectious disease expert referenced the FDA’s decision on Tuesday to stop authorizing hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 use after increasing amounts of evidence showed the drug to be ineffective for coronavirus patients.
“Now all we have is Remdesivir,” said Marrazzo of the treatment options available for those seriously ill with COVID-19.
Marrazzo warned that Remdesivir “is not really in good supply for the state,” and added that at UAB “we don’t have enough Remdesivir to treat everyone who is in the hospital.”
Dr. Marrazzo said she believes the increased number of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are most likely due to” people just stopping the really great attention they had paid to wearing masks and social distancing.”
“Unfortunately a lot of people are going out and forgetting that wearing a mask is an essential part of being able to re-enter society,” lamented Marrazzo.
She pleaded with the public, “If you’re going to go out, please wear a mask. If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for the healthcare workers.”
During a question and answer session, Marrazzo also addressed the recent large gatherings at protests who were in violation of social distancing protocols.
“If you are at a protest in a large outdoor park and 95% of people are wearing masks … odds are pretty good you’re not going to get infected,” she advised.
Dr. Sarah Nafzinger, a co-director of UAB Hospital’s Emergency Management Committee, said that if the coronavirus caseload continues to increase, the facility will be forced to restrict what it can offer to non-COVID-19 patients.
“That would negatively impact our ability to provide other services that patients need, that we so desperately want to provide,” she warned.
Nafzinger added that, currently, UAB Hosptial has the capacity to treat any patients that come in and is near its pre-COVID caseload.
The emergency medicine expert said the best thing the public can do for the overworked healthcare employees in her hospital is to wear a mask and continue to social distance.
Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Mark Wilson took the podium to say that he was concerned that the percentage of tests in his county coming back positive had risen from 5% to 10% in recent days.
He said this indicates the increased numbers in Alabama are not just due to increased testing capacity.
Wilson’s comments echoed analysis done by Marrazzo that the state’s percentage of positive tests rising from 8% over the last month to 13% in the last week is a worrying statistic.
“We are concerned that a few days from now that could translate into more hospitalizations, and heaven forbid more deaths,” said Wilson about the increased number of cases.
The county health officer also echoed many experts around the nation in saying that having the coronavirus and not having symptoms is a real and dangerous possibility for many.
“The face coverings are to protect other people,” said Wilson as evidence for why younger and healthier people should wear masks.