Decatur officials urging vaccines “before it’s too late”

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FILE – In this July 22, 2021, file photo, health care worker fills a syringe with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. U.S. health officials Wednesday, Aug. 18, recommended all Americans get COVID-19 booster shots to shore up their protection amid the surging delta variant and evidence that the vaccines’ effectiveness is falling. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

DECATUR, Ala. – Decatur and Morgan County officials held a COVID-19 briefing Monday morning informing the public where the area stands in regards to the pandemic.

As of Monday, every county in north Alabama is listed as “high” for the overall community transmission level of the coronavirus, and the number of people testing positive for the virus continues to rise.

The Alabama Department of Public Health says if we stay at this rate, we’ll have more deaths from the virus this year than last year.

Judy Smith with the Alabama Department of Public Health relayed that Pfizer has officially been fully FDA approved, removing it from its emergency use categorization.

Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling said there are now a total of 16,450 cases of COVID-19 in Morgan County, an increase of over 560 cases in just one week.

He also voiced concern regarding the Morgan County vaccination rate. As of August 23, 40,000 residents were vaccinated out of approximately 130,000 residents.

The president of Decatur-Morgan Hospital Kelli Powers said there are 44 inpatients at Decatur-Morgan with COVID-19 and 10 that are awaiting test results. She added there are 10 in the ICU, and six on the ventilator.

Powers added that the average age of ICU patients is 58. “I’ve got two that are 42 years old, one that’s 49 and one that’s 38,” she said.

Powers says because most of the older population is vaccinated, but those younger are not, younger people are now being hospitalized for the virus. 84% of the inpatients did not receive a vaccine dose, meaning 16% were vaccinated.

Powers emphasized there were no ICU beds available, “We are trying to makeshift some ICU beds in the ER.”

As these patients recover, the Decatur-Morgan system is in dire need of blood from those who have recovered from the virus. If you are able, you’re encouraged to donate. There are various blood donation sites around north Alabama, you can find a list here.

The message during the COVID-19 briefing on Monday remained the same: people are urged to get vaccinated now before it’s too late.

“Every day there are people in the hospital that says, ‘Please just go ahead and give me the vaccine,'” said Smith. “That’s too late. We can’t do it then. When the boat tumps over, it’s too late to worry about putting on a life vest. At that point, you’re treading water or you’re drowning and we don’t want you to do either.”

Smith says the only solution to avoid that scenario is to get the vaccine.

Decatur-Morgan Hospital’s emergency room has been overwhelmed as people keep going there to get tested for COVID-19.

To alleviate some of the burden, the hospital is making its mobile medical unit available for testing of all ages. The unit will be located at Westmeade Baptist Church on Beltline Road and open from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

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