Hospitals brace for further spike in COVID-19 patient caseloads

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — As COVID-19 cases continue to spike across Alabama, hospitals are starting to feel the strain of a growing number of hospitalizations.

More than 1900 people are now hospitalized across the state. This time last month, it as less than 250 people.

Healthcare experts are bracing for a return to the patient numbers of January or worse, with with COVID-19 patients again pouring into the hospital, the vast majority of whom are unvaccinated, and many younger and sicker than before.

“What makes it a little more, a lot more frustrating now is that so much of this could have been prevented if people would get vaccinated,” said Dr. Sherrie Squyres, director of Huntsville Hospital’s Emergency Department.

Despite a recent uptick in vaccinations, Alabama is still far behind nationwide with just 34 percent of Alabamians having received the shot. Healthcare experts describe the Delta variant as far more contagious and dangerous. On Friday, Huntsville Hospital had 92 Covid-19 patients in the hospital and 32 in the intensive care unit.

“Which means they very could end up on the ventilator. That’s a lot of folks. I mean that’s a whole ICU worth of people on the ventilator. I mean, this virus is not something you want to mess with,” said Dr. Squyres.

Meanwhile, staff are feeling the strain of the pandemic once again.

“Our nurses are taking care of a lot of sick patients. You know a lot of them over these last few months have picked up extra shifts. I mean this has caused people to change careers,” said Dr. Squyres.

Nationwide, hospitals are facing staff shortages, with nurses at the top of the list. Some are choosing more lucrative careers with a traveling nurse service or less stressful jobs. Those who remain on the frontline are worried.

“It is scary. I would do everything I can to get the vaccine. I have patients that tell me they’re afraid of the vaccine. I am afraid of the virus,” said Dr. Squyres.

Due to the large number of patients arriving at hospitals right now, the ADPH is urging people with non-urgent conditions to not head to the emergency room. The ADPH says they should instead reach out to their doctor or head to an urgent care center.

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