Huntsville Hospital prepared for surge in COVID-19 patients

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The number of COVID-19 patients in the Huntsville Hospital system have doubled over the past three weeks, according to hospital president and COO Tracy Doughty.

Doughty says as of Tuesday, the hospital is treating 42 inpatients with COVID-19. Five of those patients are in the ICU and two of those are on ventilators. Two pediatric patients with COVID-19 are being treated at Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children.

The numbers mirror a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations statewide over the past several weeks. As of Tuesday, 554 people were being treated for the virus in Alabama hospitals. Health officials have blamed the increase on the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant of the virus. While more than 90% of COVID-19 patients in Alabama’s hospitals are unvaccinated, the Delta variant has infected some people who were vaccinated.

According to Doughty, demand for vaccinations has drastically slowed since Alabama first expanded vaccine eligibility to everyone 12 and older. At the height of vaccine distribution, Doughty says they were giving out more than 2,000 vaccine doses per day. Now, they’re giving out just more than 200 doses per week.

Patients who are infected with the Delta variant are presenting with the same symptoms as the original strains of the virus, Doughty said. However, because the Delta variant is 10 times more contagious than other strains, Doughty says he predicts numbers will continue to increase if people don’t get vaccinated. He also expressed concerns about possible surges following children returning to schools without mask requirements, as well as a return to large-scale gatherings, such as packed-out SEC football games this fall.

Starting Wednesday, Huntsville Hospital will begin releasing COVID-19 patient statistics three times per week. The hospital had been releasing the numbers just once per week. Doughty says he has also been in talks with Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle and the Huntsville – Madison County EMA about possibly resuming weekly COVID-19 briefings.

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