Birmingham, Alabama (AP)—As more and more COVID-19 patients appear, the Cullman Regional Medical Center already has more than a dozen intensive care beds and is eagerly looking for options.
Ten beds usually used for lighter conditions are converted into intensive care units and equipped with additional IV machines. Video monitors can enable staff to monitor patients at any time when nurses have to rush to take care of others.
The patch can at least accomplish the task.
The hospital’s chief medical officer, Dr. William Smith, said last week: “We are like a bathtub filled with water, and the drain is blocked.”
For a long time, Alabama has been one of the unhealthiest and poorest states in the United States, and has become one of the most worrying coronavirus hotspots in the United States.
As the virus is raging in areas with high obesity rates, high blood pressure, and other areas that may make COVID-1
Another sign of the ease of transmission of the virus is the discovery of the first case of COVID-19 reported in the United States in the United Kingdom in Colorado.
California health officials said Tuesday that the variant was found in a man in his twenties who was remote southeast of Denver and had no history of travel. Scientists in the UK believe that the new variants are more infectious than previously identified strains.
Overall, the coronavirus has killed more than 335,000 people across the United States, including more than 4,700 in Alabama. California and Tennessee have also been hit particularly hard in recent weeks.
At Cullman Regional, a medium-sized hospital serving an agricultural area 55 miles north of Birmingham, the intensive care unit reached 180% of its capacity as of last week, the highest in the state. Other hospitals are also trying to keep up with the fascination of people infected by the virus.
Smith said that although typical patients may need ICU treatment for two to three days, COVID-19 patients usually stay for two to three weeks, which leads to an increase in medical records.
According to data from Johns Hopkins University, Alabama ranked sixth in the number of new cases per capita in the past week. Alabama’s latest average positive rate (the percentage of tests that are positive for the virus) is almost 40%, one of the highest numbers in the country. An average of 46 people die every day in the state, up from 30 on December 14.
According to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in the week from December 18 to 24, the national ICU capacity was 78%, while the ICU capacity in Alabama was 91%. As of last week, the intensive care unit of 15 hospitals in Alabama had reached or exceeded capacity, and the intensive care unit of the other six hospitals had at least 96% full capacity.
On Tuesday, Alabama had 2,804 hospitals with COVID-19, which is the highest number since the pandemic began.
Experts worry that this pressure will only increase after the holidays because of new infections related to travel and gatherings of family and friends.
“I think we are in a difficult situation. I did.” said Dr. Don Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association. “I worry that our Christmas holiday will be much more serious than the Thanksgiving holiday.”
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey broke down with some of his colleagues in the South at the time, imposing the statewide mask authorization that has been in place since July, but health officials have been working hard to get people to comply. The Republican governor also issued a full-time order at the beginning of the pandemic, but firmly opposed to doing so again. He said: “If you don’t have a livelihood, you will not be able to live.”
In contrast, California has issued strict home orders in areas where the ICU occupancy rate reaches 85% in recent weeks.
“Unfortunately, we still have a group of people partying together, vacationing, and doing unsafe things,” said Dr. Scott Harris, Alabama State Health Officer.
Shennan Prefecture has the highest incidence of certain chronic health conditions, which increases the risk of death or serious illness caused by the coronavirus. Alabama’s adult obesity rate ranks sixth in the United States and third among adults with diabetes.
Alabama is also one of a dozen states that have not expanded the Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act, and therefore has a large number of uninsured programs. According to the Henry Kaiser Family Foundation, about 15% of people between 19% and 64 years old do not have medical insurance, ranking 13th in the United States.
In the past decade, the state has closed 17 hospitals, most of which are small rural hospitals. This trend has made it unaffordable for regional medical institutions.
Dr. James Boyle said that since September, the number of COVID-19 deaths at Decatur Morgan Hospital has tripled and the intensive care unit is full. When he discussed the possibility of rationing care in the new year, the pulmonologist tried to remain calm, paused and pursed his lips.
“I have been doing an internship in the county since 1998. In the past 20 years, I have never had more than 2 or 3 people on the ventilator with flu,” he said. “In winter, we always have a lot of patients in the ICU. It is unprecedented for 16 patients to suffer from diseases that we don’t usually have on the ventilator.”
UAB Hospital, affiliated with the University of Alabama at Birmingham, has recruited retired nurses and dozens of teachers and students from its nursing school.
Hospitals in Alabama are receiving calls from neighboring countries such as Mississippi and Tennessee because doctors are seeking additional space for COVID-19 patients, but they are unable to help as frequently as they used to. The same is true within the state, where hospitals may not be able to help patients after disasters such as tornadoes, thereby helping patients.
As thousands of people have been vaccinated with the first of the two vaccines needed to prevent COVID-19, the end of the pandemic is imminent. But at the same time, the death toll of medical staff is also increasing.
“We did see death. This is part of what we do; this is part of our training,” Boyle said. “The difficulties this year are huge. We cannot feel sad for one patient but have to take care of another patient.”
The story of Chandler from Montgomery, Alabama contributed to this story.