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Only two ICU beds available in Alabama as COVID hospitalizations surge

Of those hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide on Monday, 88 percent were unvaccinated, according to the Alabama Hospital Association.

Health care machinery in a COVID-19 unit at UAB Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama. (VIA UAB)

Just two ICU beds were available statewide in Alabama on Monday, as the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations continued climbing closer to the state’s all-time high. 

Alabama Hospital Association president and former state health officer Dr. Don Williamson told APR in a message that the state had 2,631 hospitalized with COVID-19 on Monday. That’s a 174 percent increase from three weeks before and just 435 patients shy of the state’s highest COVID-19 hospitalization, set on Jan. 11. Given the state’s pace, Alabama could surpass that high before Thursday. 

Of those hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide on Monday, 88 percent were unvaccinated, Williamson said. There were 40 children hospitalized with COVID-19 in Alabama on Monday, up from nine on July 15.

Alabama’s average percent of tests that were positive over the week ending Sunday was 22.4 percent, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health, which hadn’t updated all of the department’s latest data to its website as of Monday afternoon. Public health experts say it should be at or below 5 percent or cases are going undetected. 

Those two available ICU beds statewide on Monday represent the state’s formal ICU beds. Many hospitals have begun converting other areas of into ICUs to meet the demands of both COVID-19 patients and others needing that critical care, but Williamson is also concerned that hospitals won’t have the staff to care for all those filled ICU beds. 

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“What we’ll end up having to do, if we get to that point, we’re going to have to get federal assistance. We’ll have to have staff from outside of Alabama to help,” Williamson told APR last week. 

Hospitals have also begin cutting elective procedures and limiting visitations due to surging COVID-19 hospitalizations. 

Gov. Kay Ivey on Friday issued a state of emergency because of surging COVID-19, but said there will be “absolutely no statewide mandates, closures or the like.”

 “Let me be crystal clear: Alabama remains open for business. Alabamians do not need government telling us what to do or how to do it. Unlike last year when we were hoping for a miracle, our greatest weapon against covid-19 today is the vaccine, so, if you can, roll up your sleeve and get the shot,” Ivey said in a statement Friday. 

Ivey, who is running for reelection and had been a supporter of people wearing masks to slow the spread, has recently come out against mask mandates in schools or in public. Mask mandates and other preventative measures are wildly unpopular among many conservatives. 

“Wearing masks will not defeat covid-19,” Ivey wrote in a recent op-ed, in which she instead urged the public to get vaccinated. 

Dr. David Kimberlin, co-director of UAB and Children’s of Alabama’s Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, on Friday pleaded with school systems to require masks for students and staff because the delta variant is spreading so rapidly among children. 

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Kimberlin said school systems need to heed the recommendations to enact mask mandates made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Alabama Department of Public Health, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society and a group of Alabama pediatricians who wrote a letter urging schools to require universal masking

Eddie Burkhalter is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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