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East Alabama Medical Center president addresses 129 lives lost to COVID-19

“I’m still blown away by how so many people have become numb — and even belligerent — to COVID-19,” EAMC CEO Laura Grill writes.

The president of East Alabama Medical Center in a statement Monday discussed the 139 lives lost to COVID-19 who were cared for in the center’s two facilities since the start of the pandemic. EAMC on Monday hit another COVID-19 hospitalization record at 79 patients. Hospitals statewide also hit a record 3,064 hospitalizations, for the first time crossing over 3,000. Below is EAMC president Laura Grill’s statement in full.

While we don’t routinely share the number of COVID-19 deaths in our updates, we think this graphic is a powerful reminder of what our healthcare community has been through since March 2020. Just stop and think about this staggering number for a minute—139 lives lost to COVID-19 in just one organization (EAMC and EAMC-Lanier). And many more who have recovered will still have lingering, and even life-altering, effects from the virus.

Each of the 139 deaths represents someone’s beloved family member. Maybe a mother or father (sometimes both), or a son, a daughter, a husband, a wife, a grandparent or a beloved friend. Each of these souls lost to COVID-19 were cared for lovingly, compassionately, and with dignity and respect by our amazing staff members and physicians.

And when it was clear that a patient would not survive, our employees and physicians held the hands of the patients as they drew their last breath. Of course, our team members were wearing gloves, masks and other necessary PPE, so unfortunately, this did not allow the patients to fully have a human connection with our staff in the end. But I know each of the patients left an imprint on the hearts of our caregivers.


Our community has done so much to support our staff, with meals and prayers and cards and letters. And some of the 850 patients who have recovered have reached out to personally convey their gratitude.

However, I’m still blown away by how so many people have become numb—and even belligerent—to COVID-19. Our clinical team is tired, but they press on. And I know health officials are tired of pleading with people about wearing a mask, social distancing and not gathering with people outside your immediate family. This is not hard to do, but people will fight you over it. And then I am amazed how quickly these same people become believers in COVID when they are the person diagnosed, or when a family member is hospitalized with the virus and is fighting for air.

Imagine if 139 people were taken from our community in a natural disaster such as a tornado. We saw last year when we lost 23 residents to a tornado how every local, state, and federal official went to the site to offer prayers and condolences. Hurricane-like death tolls are taking place at hospitals across America, and yet we are still debating common sense measures.

This is not a political issue. This is a real life and death issue. This is science and medicine. I can assure you that no patient who enters our doors is asked if they are a democrat or a republican (and vice versa). And we do not ask if you believe that masks work. We only see you as a patient—a patient who is scared and needs help. And we will do everything we can to take the best care of you. We just ask that you please help us help you, your family and your community so that we do not have to say goodbye to 139 more. 

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Laura Grill is the president and CEO of East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika, Alabama.

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