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‘We are exhausted’

Alabama hospital’s number of COVID patients triples in a month

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Huntsville Hospital

Earlier this month, Huntsville Hospital Health System was treating 35 COVID-19 patients. Just a few weeks later, that number more than tripled to 129.

Earlier this month, Huntsville Hospital Health System was treating 35 COVID-19 patients. Just a few weeks later, that number more than tripled to 129 and, now, has reached 143 with 46 in the ICU and 13 on a ventilator.

Jeff Samz, CEO of Huntsville Health System, said one of the results of the surging COVID numbers is a greater strain on healthcare workers, many already beleaguered by more than a year of providing coronavirus care. The answer is vaccinations, he said.

“When you choose not to get vaccinated and contract COVID-19, you may be asking a healthcare worker, who spent the last year and a half dealing with this trauma on a daily basis, to again risk their life to take care of you,” Samz wrote last week on the Huntsville Hospital website. “Everyone understands there are people with medical conditions that make vaccinations dangerous for them. It’s time for everyone else to get the vaccine and put this behind us.

“We are overwhelmed by the love and support we received from the community. But we are also exhausted.”

Of the system’s current COVID patients, 54 are in Huntsville Hospital and Women and Children, with 6 of those on a ventilator and 12 in ICU. Helen Keller Hospital in Sheffield has 25 COVID patients, 4 on a ventilator and 14 in ICU; Madison Hospital has 19 patients, 1 on a ventilator and 6 in the ICU. The systems other COVID counts include: Decatur-Morgan Hospital (15 patients); Marshall Medical Center South (10); Athens-Limestone Hospital (8); Highlands Medical Center (6); Marshall Medical Center North (5); and Red Bay Hospital (1).

Alabama has vaccinated less than 40% of its eligible population, the lowest percentage in the country.

Average age of COVID patient drops

Samz said the average age of the typical COVID-19 patient has fallen to 57 years old and the overwhelming majority are unvaccinated. In almost every case, the patient’s entire family is sick with COVID and, unlike previous surges, Samz said this one was avoidable.

“If you are hospitalized with COVID-19 and lucky enough to survive, you are likely facing pulmonary rehabilitation and years of wondering about the long-term implications of contracting a new virus where the future ramifications are unknown,” Samz wrote. “Yes, it’s a new vaccine. But it’s also a brand-new virus. Do you prefer the vaccine designed to keep you safe? Or the virus determined to make you sick? Chances are, you’re going to get one or the other before this thing is over.”

Samz said the quick spread of the delta variant makes vaccinations even more important.

“The delta variant of covid-19 is much more aggressive than the original strain and has proven to be far more contagious, infecting an average of three or four other people. This is especially concerning for pediatric patients who aren’t eligible for the vaccine but who remain at risk of becoming infected. One of those children is in our hospital with COVID-19 today,” Samz wrote.