Health officials encouraged with COVID numbers declining, but struggle with staffing

Dr. Harris said these hospitals are caring for sicker, critical care patients, and a lack of hospital staff remains an evolving issue.
Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 5:16 PM CDT
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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) - Alabama state health officer Dr. Scott Harris gave his weekly update on Friday, the biggest takeaway: COVID hospitalizations in Alabama are decreasing. However, the numbers remain high. Today state hospitals are caring for over 2,620 COVID patients.

Dr. Harris said these hospitals are caring for sicker, critical care patients, and a lack of hospital staff remains an evolving issue.

“I really don’t know what else we could do to help our hospitals at this time, staffing is at such a crucial level,” Dr. Harris said.

Dr. Harris said they are working to improve ICU capacity around the state, some Alabama hospitals are forced to care for critical patients in non-critical care areas, due to being so strained.

“When you have hospitals that are overrun like they are with patients it really feels like a failure on our part because you know, 85 to 90 percent of these people are unvaccinated, you know most of them are preventable cases, most of them don’t have to be in the hospital, chances are,” Dr. Harris said.

To assist, a federal team was sent to Southeast Health and Dale Medical Center. Dr. Harris said both teams are approved to have extended stays and will be here for several weeks.

HHS is evaluating five other hospitals in the state to receive possible federal assistance, one of them is Flowers Hospital.

“We are very very grateful for that support, we appreciate our federal partners helping us doing that,” Dr. Harris said.

Alabama hospitals may be seeing a plateau in COVID hospitalizations, according to Dr. Harris. On Friday Southeast Health announced they are caring for 89 COVID patients, while Flowers is caring for 58.

Dr. Harris hopes the trend downward continues.

“The one thing we know is that we don’t ever really know, and it’s just really hard to predict,” Dr. Harris said. “I will say we are encouraged numbers still aren’t going up and hopefully they will go down.”

As case numbers slightly decline, the state’s vaccine interest has gone up. The state now ahead of 8 others.

“Our goal is we want everybody vaccinated as quickly as possible, it’s the best possible way to get out of this,” Dr. Harris said.

Dr. Harris said despite increased vaccinations, the rate is still low enough that a temporary limitation has been placed on Monoclonal Antibody treatment orders.

“Several states in the Southeastern U.S, states with low vaccination rates, are seeing surges and a demand in monoclonal products,” Dr. Harris said.

The state now limited to 70 percent of what they are asking for. Dr. Harris said this issue should be resolved in October.

Alabama has 228 Monoclonal Antibody treatment product providers. Dr. Harris encourages people who have COVID or are exposed, to speak with their primary doctor and see if they are eligible for this treat meant. He said this treatment is effective within 10 days of your illness, so time is crucial.

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