Hospital leader worries Alabama coronavirus curve headed in ‘very bad direction’

Published 10:12 pm Wednesday, July 8, 2020

The coronavirus outbreak in Alabama is headed in a “bad direction,” the head of the Alabama Hospital Association said Wednesday, as the state reached a new high for people hospitalized with COVID-19 and a new low for available intensive care beds.

“I’m worried,” said. Dr. Don Williamson, the former state health officer who now heads the state Hospital Association. “I just think things are trending in a very, very bad direction.”

On Wednesday, 1,110 people were hospitalized because of the coronavirus across the state, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. That is the highest number since the pandemic began. Doctors have expressed concern about the sharp rise in hospitalizations. The state had 683 hospitalized patients two weeks ago, on June 24.

Since the pandemic began, more than 46,000 people in Alabama have tested positive for COVID-19 with about 30% of infections being reported in the past two weeks.

The state also hit a new low for available intensive care beds. Williamson said 88% of ICU beds are full, leaving 202 beds available statewide.

Hospitals are managing for now, but he said he was worried about what the next few weeks will bring as newly infected people begin getting sick.

“We are worried really about the trends that we are seeing,” Dr. Jodie Dionne-Odom, an assistant professor of infectious diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said in a call with reporters. “It’s not really about any one data point or any one number. But the fact that we are seeing these sharp increases in hospitalizations and cases over the past week to two is really concerning.”

She said when confirmed cases rise, the number of hospitalizations typically rise about two weeks later.

So far, 1,032 Alabamians have died after contracting the virus. For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and even be fatal.

Decatur on Wednesday became the latest city to mandate that face masks be worn in most public settings. Jefferson County, Madison County, Montgomery and Mobile already have similar health orders or ordinances in place.

Dionne-Odom said the message to the public should be: “to wear a mask, keep distancing and keep yourself and your family safe.”

“The major message to get out to people is that COVID-19 is still here. It’s in all of our communities. It is spreading community wide from person to person.”