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Alabama’s ICU beds are beyond full as COVID-19 rages

Mobile County health officials are discussing getting refrigeration trucks to hold the growing number of COVID-19 deaths.

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

Alabama had 11 more people in need of ICU beds than the state had formal ICU beds available as the delta variant continues to surge, sending more to the hospital in a state that is also the least vaccinated. 

There were 1,568 people getting ICU care Tuesday in a state that has 1,557 ICU beds, Alabama Hospital Association President Dr. Don Williamson told APR in a message. 

“Unfortunately, I don’t see the bottom yet,” Williamson said. 

Many hospitals have begun converting other areas into ICUs to meet the demands of both the growing numbers of COVID-19 patients and others needing that critical care. 

There were 2,723 COVID-19 patients statewide on Tuesday, just 358 patients shy of the state’s record high, set on Jan. 5. Of those hospitalized Tuesday, 40 were children.

Alabama’s average percent of tests that were positive over the week ending Sunday was 23.2 percent, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. Public health experts say it should be at or below 5 percent, or cases are going undetected.

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COVID-19 deaths in Mobile County are on the rise, said Dr. Rendi Murphree with the Mobile County Health Department during a briefing Tuesday. The county had a record-high 480 hospitalized with COVID-19 on Monday. 

Murphree said a county funeral home called the health department on Monday “concerned that they had 17 decedents on site that they were working on, with five more on the way.”  

“Just a really concerned funeral home director calling about the high number of deaths that he was seeing at his funeral home,” Murphree said. 

“We are talking again about getting refrigerated trailers and making sure we have enough bags to store decedents appropriately, but this is stacking up our entire healthcare system,” Murphree said. 

Murphree pleaded with the public to get vaccinated but also to wear masks because it will take several weeks for a person who gets the first dose now to get the full protection of those vaccines. 

“Eighty-five to 90 percent of the people in the hospital are unvaccinated, and greater than 96 percent of people who are dying with COVID are unvaccinated,” Murphree said. 

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Alabama has the lowest number of full vaccinated residents in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at 35.7 percent.

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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