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Omicron continues to strain Alabama’s ICU bed capacity even as case counts decline

MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) – The nation set a grim benchmark over the weekend, reporting 900,000 deaths from COVID-19. Alabama has recorded 17,407 deaths, according to the latest data from the state hospital association.

Alabama Hospital Association President Dr. Donald Williamson said that although the Omicron variant has been described as less severe than other strains, it is still responsible for hundreds of deaths in the state.

Dr. Williamson says 439 deaths from COVID-19 have been reported in Alabama in the past two weeks alone.

“Yes, it’s softer, but it’s not soft by any means. People are in intensive care. Over 500 people remain in intensive care with COVID-19,” Dr Williamson said.

The latest data shows 2,324 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide. 543 of them are in intensive care.

Williamson says intensive care units are stretched to the limit. Many parts of the state, including northern Alabama, have less than 10% of available beds. He says a statistic that is important to note.

“When you start looking at the scarcity of critical care beds, it would only take one car crash or a series of car crashes to overwhelm our low availability of critical care in a specific geographic area,” explained the Dr Williamson.

Williamson says the strain on the ICU is also trickling down to the emergency department.

“Patients will spend hours or even days being cared for in an emergency department rather than being transferred to intensive care because they are in an intensive care bed. They’ll get ICU-level care, but they’ll get it in an emergency department. Well, that supports ED for everyone,” he said.

The pressure is also felt by hospital staff.

“You know, it’s clear that the staff are emotionally and physically exhausted. It is estimated nationally that 20% of the healthcare workforce has left since the start of the pandemic,” Williamson said.

And he understands that some members of the community are tired of the fight.

“We will soon enter our third year of fighting this pandemic and people are tired of it. Hospitals known to heaven are tired,” he said.

But he asks to continue to be vigilant and to wear a mask in public to fight against the spread of COVID-19.

The state’s 7-day average positivity rate is falling in Alabama. It is currently 25.1%. Williamson pointed out that’s still higher than at any time during Delta’s surge.


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