Alabama whirls around

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama, Alabama, Alabama (AP). Already filled with dozens of critical care beds, Culman Regional Medical Center was desperate for options as more and more patients with COVID-19 began to show up.

Ten beds, normally used for less severe cases, have been converted into intensive care units with additional equipment for intravenous administration. Video monitors were set up so staff could monitor patients when the nurses had to rush to attend to someone else.

The patch did the job ̵

1; at least for now.

“We are like a bathtub that fills with water and the sewer is blocked,” said the hospital’s chief doctor, Dr. William Smith, last week.

Alabama, long one of the healthiest and poorest states in America, has become one of the most problematic hotspots in the country.

Its hospitals are in crisis as the virus spins out of control in an area with high levels of obesity, high blood pressure and other diseases that could make COVID-19 even more dangerous, where access to health care is restricted even before the disease begins was. where stubborn resistance to masks and other precautions.

Another indication of how easily the virus can spread, Colorado, was the first US reported case of COVID-19 in the UK.

The option was found in a 20-year-old man who is isolated southeast of Denver and has no travel history, state health officials said Tuesday. Scientists in the UK believe the new variant is more contagious than previously discovered strains.

In total, more than 335,000 people have died from the coronavirus in the United States, more than 4,700 of them in Alabama. Places like California and Tennessee have also been particularly hard hit in recent weeks.

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At Cullman Regional Central Hospital, which serves an agricultural area 55 miles north of Birmingham, the intensive care unit was 180% capacity last week, the highest in the state. Other hospitals are also trying to keep up with pillows for people with the virus.

While a typical patient may need intensive treatment for two to three days, patients with COVID-19 often stay two to three weeks, adding to the stress.

Alabama was ranked sixth on the list of states with the most recent cases per capita last week, according to Johns Hopkins University. The latest Alabama average positivity – the percentage of tests that give a positive result for the virus – is close to 40%, which is one of the highest in the country. And the state has an average of 46 deaths per day compared to Dec. 30, 14.

While 78% of the nationwide intensive care unit was in intensive care from December 18 to December 24, Alabama was 91% occupied, according to the US Department of Health. As of last week, 15 Alabama hospitals had intensive care units of capacity or more, and six other hospitals’ intensive care units were at least 96% full.

As of Tuesday, there were 2,804 people at COLID-19 hospitals in Alabama, the highest level since the pandemic began.

Experts fear that tensions will only build up after the holidays due to new infections related to travel and meeting family members and friends.

“I think we are in a difficult situation. I really do, “said Dr. Donna Williamson, director of the Alabama Hospital Association. “I’m afraid our Christmas climb will be much worse than the climb.”

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Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, who had split with some of his southern counterparts at the time, imposed a nationwide mask mandate that has been in place since July, but health officials have been trying to get people to abide by it . The governor of the republic also issued an order to “stay home” at the start of the pandemic, but again refused, saying, “You cannot live without a livelihood”.

In contrast, California in recent weeks has issued strict instructions to “stay at home” in areas where IP exposure has reached 85%.

“Unfortunately we have people who still get together in groups and go on vacation and do dangerous things,” said Dr. Scott Harris, an Alabama employee.

The Deep South State has some of the highest rates of some chronic illnesses that increase the risk of death or serious illness from the coronavirus. Alabama ranks sixth in the United States for age of obesity in adults and third in the percentage of adults with diabetes.

Alabama is also one of a dozen states that haven’t expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, and therefore has large numbers of uninsured. According to the Henry J. Family Foundation. Kaiser, around 15% of 19 to 64 year olds have no coverage, this is the 13th number in the country.

The state has closed 17 hospitals across the state in the past decade, mostly small rural ones, a trend that has weakened regional institutions.

At Decatur Morgan Hospital, the number of deaths from COVID-19 has tripled since September and the intensive care unit is full, said Dr. James Boyle. The pulmonologist tried to keep calm by pausing, pursing his lips, and discussing the possibility that a diet might be required in the New Year.

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“I’ve been practicing in this county since ’98. In the past 20 years, I’ve never had more than two or three people on ventilators, ”he said. “We always have a lot of patients in winter. It is unprecedented to have 16 patients on ventilators with a disease we normally don’t have. “

UAB Hospital, which operates at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, has enlisted the help of retired nurses and dozens of faculties and students at its nursing school.

Alabama hospitals are calling from neighboring states like Mississippi and Tennessee as doctors look for extra space for patients with COVID-19 but may not be able to help as often as before. Same goes for the state, as hospitals that can help patients after a disaster, like a tornado, can no longer help.

If thousands of people have already been vaccinated with the first of the two doses required to protect against COVID-19, the end of the pandemic is in sight. But the pay for health workers is increasing now.

“We really do see death. It’s part of what we do. It’s part of our training, “said Boyle.” The difficulty this year is just huge. We cannot worry about one patient before we have to worry about another. “

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Chandler contributed to this story from Montgomery, Alabama.

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