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45 COVID-19 cases hospitalized at UAB, 18 on ventilators

UPDATE: For a more recent look at UAB’s hospitalization numbers, look at this page.

UPDATE: The Birmingham City Council on Tuesday afternoon passed Mayor Woodfin’s shelter-in-place order. You can read the ordinance at the bottom of this story. Birmingham is the first city in the state to issue such an order to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, speaking at a press conference Tuesday afternoon, said he would seek a shelter-in-place order for the city of Birmingham as the number of cases in the city and Jefferson County continues to rise.

The mayor said at least 45 people are currently hospitalized at UAB Medical Center in Birmingham. Dozens more are under observation, and at least 18 are on ventilators. UAB is the state’s largest and most advanced hospital.

It is likely caring for patients from outside Jefferson County, but the hospital said it could not confirm where the patients are from.

By Tuesday morning, more than 200 cases were confirmed in the state of Alabama. Ninety of them are in Jefferson County. It’s unclear if Jefferson County is more affected by the virus or if residents in the county have had access to more testing.

Dr. Sarah Nafziger, the co-chair of UAB’s emergency management committee, confirmed the cases at UAB and said the hospital has experienced an “exponential increase” in patients seeking care in the last week.

“Evidence is overwhelming that Jefferson County, and beyond, is, and has been, experiencing rapid community spread of COVID-19,” Nafziger said. “This is a dangerous situation that our community needs to take seriously. Everyone has an important responsibility right now to save lives.”

Nafziger said the situation is “unprecedented.” Her tone at the press conference was markedly solemn.

“It is known to us, as leaders of UAB Medicine, that we will have to make some very difficult decisions in the coming days and weeks,” she said. “We ask for your cooperation, and we ask for your prayers for our health care workers as we face this unprecedented event.”

Dr. Sarah Nafziger holds up a chart showing the exponential increase in patients seeking care for COVID-19 at UAB hospital.

“This is very different from 11 or 12 days ago,” Woodfin said. “I think it’s very important, at this time, for our city and community to take this seriously. The last few weeks have been unprecedented obstacles that we’ve faced.”

Woodfin presented to the Birmingham City Council a shelter-in-place ordinance Tuesday morning. The council is expected to vote on the ordinance Tuesday afternoon.

“The city must take every reasonable effort to slow the spread of this virus,” Woodfin said.

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The ordinance would require city residents to stay at home when at all possible except when they must go out to get essentials like groceries, gas, medicine, health care or food. Residents will still be allowed to leave their homes for solitary outdoor activity.

“A shelter-in-place simply means stay at home,” Woodfin said.

Services and deliveries will still be made.

“For those of us on the front lines of the pandemic, we urgently need the public’s cooperation today,” Nafziger. “If you can stay at home, stay at home.”

The shelter-in-place, Woodfin said, does not conflict with the Jefferson County Department of Health’s ordinance. It will allow Birmingham police to enforce the county’s recommendation. So far, Jefferson County, and now Birmingham, have put in place the most expansive restrictions on their residents to try to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“Today, we’re simply asking you to remain apart, so that we can come back stronger than ever,” Woodfin said. “I want to reassure you that we will be on the right side of history by making this decision.”

The full order and its exceptions can be found below. More information is available here.

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City of Birmingham Proposed… by Chip Brownlee on Scribd

Chip Brownlee is a former political reporter, online content manager and webmaster at the Alabama Political Reporter. He is now a reporter at The Trace, a non-profit newsroom covering guns in America.

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