BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - UPDATE: As of 9 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 2, UAB Hospital was caring for 127 inpatients who have tested positive for COVID-19. That passes Tuesday’s record of 125 patients.
ORIGINAL: Alabama hospitals are looking at record numbers of COVID patients. Monday and Tuesday, UAB hit its all time high with 125 patients being treated for COVID-19. Statewide, we’re at more than 1,700 coronavirus patients.
UAB’s Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo said she looks at the list of COVID patients they are treating and those who died from the disease each day. Dr. Marrazzo said she believes the list is going to get longer.
Dr. Marrazzo said the hospital hasn’t even seen the expected surge from the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. She believes hospitals could see what she calls a tidal wave or tsunami of patients.
The infectious disease doctor said what is happening the last few weeks is not a surge, but a spike of cases. Marrazzo said there are no surplus of ICU beds in Alabama. Hospitals across the state are fearful that COVID cases could strain their current services and limit healthcare for others who may need critical treatment.
“The fact our hospitals have the chance to be overwhelmed. That means if you have chest pain or you think you have a stroke or you have a fever and it’s not COVID. You may have a bacterial infection. It means if you go to the ER, you could be turned away. You can go to another hospital or you could be waiting in that ER for a very long time,” Marrazzo said.
Dr. Marrazzo said UAB at this time can handle the current COVID patient load. They have a committee that is constantly looking at patients, staffing and resources. She says more UAB workers are getting infected out in the community and that is an additional burden for the hospital.
Alabama will be ready next week to accept the first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines, whenever they are ready to be shipped. Alabama Public Health Officer Scott Harris says the state’s first shipment will only be about 40,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
Healthcare workers and other first responders are right now at the top of the list to get the vaccine first. But obviously, 40,000 doses will not be enough for everybody.
There are more than 200,000 healthcare workers in Alabama. The first shipment will not be enough for everyone. At UAB, they have been working on coming up with a list of priority workers who will be offered the first doses. They’re looking at national guidelines for recommendations and creating their own list. The decision was made at UAB - those who work most directly with COVID-19 patients will be the first ones to get the shots.
“It will really prioritize my understanding, it will prioritize the people with the most intense patient contact. Obviously, you are thinking about respiratory therapists who intubate people. People who are in the ER who are on the frontline,” Marrazzo said.
At UAB, they will offer the vaccine to their workers, but it will not be mandated those workers take the vaccine. That will be a personal decision.
Health leaders say the only thing that can turn that potential tidal wave of patients in the coming weeks will be actions of the public.
Dr. Marrazzo said people can help by doing the things medical professionals have been saying for months now - wearing masks, social distancing, and hand washing. Marrazzo said that message still has to be driven home.
“We need to do it in a way that is sympathetic and not angry cause, yeah, I’m pretty angry about what’s going to happen in the next couple of weeks, but getting angry with people and shaming them is not the answer at this point,” Marrazzo said
Marrazzo said at first, people in the United States thought it wouldn’t happen here. But it has. Young people thought they were immune, but they are not. She said people are frustrated, but unless folks really move to protect themselves and others, the state will be facing a dire situation in the coming weeks.