COVID-19 numbers indicate ‘going in the right direction’ but lack of ICU beds remain a concern

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Officials provided the latest COVID-19 update to residents of Huntsville and Madison County.

Jeff Birdwell, Huntsville-Madison County EMA Director; Tracy Doughty, Huntsville Hospital President & Chief Operating Officer; and Cathy Miller, United Way of Madison County Community Impact Director were in attendance.

Huntsville-Madison County EMA Director Jeff Birdwell began the meeting with the latest COVID-19 case numbers in Madison County. Since the pandemic began there have been 794,773 positive cases in the state, with 50,310 cases in Madison County. 637 people have died from COVID-19 in the county up last week from 610.

Tracy Doughty, Huntsville Hospital President & Chief Operating Officer gave updated information on the number of COVID-19 patients in the Huntsville Hospital system. Currently, there are 144 COVID-19 in-patients with 40 of those patients in the ICU and 39 are on a ventilator. Doghty said 90% of those COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated. He included that Crestwood Hospital has an additional 28 patients with 6 patients in the ICU on a ventilator.

“We are pretty close to the state average,” said Doughty. “Our positivity rate is about 15.5 percent. The good news is that it was 17 percent last week and 22 percent the week before that, which are all good indicators that we are going in the right direction.”

Doughty stressed that the lack of ICU beds is still an issue across the state. “ICU beds are a real concern of ours. ICU beds are full across the state as well. If you look at our state, there are 1,535, that’s our capacity for ICU beds. There are 19 available as of yesterday. That’s only one percent available. Downtown at our hospital now, we are negative seven beds. We’re holding seven ICU patients in our ER, which means all of our ICU beds are full right now. Even though the numbers are looking better, we are not out of the woods yet.”

According to the Alabama Hospital Association, only 15 percent of all hospitalized COVID-19 patients are fully vaccinated.

Doughty tells News 19 the patients who are vaccinated spend a lot less time on average in the hospital and utilize fewer resources.

Doughty says 54 percent of Madison County is fully vaccinated But we need more people to get their shots in order to defeat the virus. In the meantime, Doughty says you can never go wrong with a mask.

The next briefing will be Wednesday, October 6.

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