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‘I don’t know how much longer we’re going to be able to do this’: State Health Officer emotional over COVID-19 crisis

Published: Aug. 27, 2021 at 10:49 AM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - In an emotional moment during his weekly COVID-19 update, Alabama State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said the state is in a crisis. He said even though he has said it before he wants people to understand this is a serious COVID-19 crisis when it comes to people getting sick, the strain on healthcare and people dying from the virus.

Harris said, “I don’t know how much longer we’re going to be able to do this.”

Dr. Harris said so much of this crisis could have been prevented by getting the COVID-19 vaccine and taking other precautions in behaviors like mask wearing in public indoors and maintaining social distance.

Harris said it’s frustrating because, “You’d rather have an argument about masks then have an argument about how to keep children safe.”

Harris said the reality is we have negative ICU beds and that’s never happened before. Alabama has 40 more ICU patients than we have ICU beds. That means people are receiving ICU care in a hallway or in an ER.

Dr. Harris said this has been a particularly bad week for Alabama schools and student COVID-19 cases.

More than 5,000 students tested positive from COVID-19 over the last week. Harris said that’s a 700 percent increase in school-age students from this time last year.

Harris reminded everyone that he and other health leaders believe all children in all schools should be masked.

“We don’t know how to convince people of good advice,” Harris said.

Alabama has maintained a 23 percent COVID positive rate over the past week. That’s one of the highest in the country. There were 5,000 positive cases in Alabama on Thursday alone.

There are 2,879 COVID patients in the hospital, 45 of those are pediatric patients.

Two more morgue trailers have been moved to Baldwin County because Dr. Harris said there is no more room to ‘put these bodies.’

There is another federal medical team headed to Alabama. A 20-person team of doctors, nurses and techs will be deployed to Dothan. There is already a 14-person federal medical team at a hospital in Baldwin County.

Dr. Harris said, “If you’re hearing these words you can make a difference.” He said that difference may be through lifestyle changes or getting the vaccine.

One bright spot this week according to Dr. Harris was Alabama had one of the biggest jumps in the country for vaccinations. We still trail the rest of the country.

Alabama is also working to get teams to set up new IV monoclonal clinics including some in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa. That could happen in the next two weeks.

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