Lt. gov. says Alabama not prepared for worst of COVID-19

Will Ainsworth is running for Alabama Lt. Governor.
Will Ainsworth is running for Alabama Lt. Governor.
Updated: Mar. 26, 2020 at 6:38 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Alabama Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth issued a memo Thursday afternoon about the current needs and concerns regarding Alabama’s COVID-19 response.

Ainsworth said most experts believe there are substantially more cases of coronavirus than are being reported because of the lack of testing. He said he has consulted experts and believes a lack of hospital capacity and a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPEs) will be Alabama’s biggest hurdles in the coming months.

“A tsunami of hospital patients is likely to fall upon Alabama in the not too distant future, and it is my opinion that [the Alabama COVID-19 Task Force] and the state are not taking a realistic view of the numbers or adequately preparing for what awaits us,” Ainsworth said in the memo.

Ainsworth said since Monday he has spoken with officials at both UAB Hospital and Huntsville Hospital; he has also asked Dr. Don Williamson, the former state public health officer and current president and CEO of the Alabama Hospital Association, to put together a comprehensive statewide plan.

“Time is our enemy, and each moment that we lose by not preparing for the coming deluge will result in the loss of life and the crippling of our healthcare infrastructure,” Ainsworth said.

Ainsworth said based on data and estimated projections, and assuming a 13 percent hospitalization rate for those infected with coronavirus, by May 1 Alabama will have double the number of hospitalizations than beds available in the state.

Ainsworth said UAB Hospital officials told him that as of 1 p.m. Wednesday the hospital had 135 patients who have either tested positive for coronavirus or who are awaiting results. More than 34 of the patients are on ventilators.

“I believe that the public’s safety and simple common sense demand that we create a formal plan to double or even triple hospital capacity and also provide for adequate staffing levels,” Ainsworth said.

Ainsworth said in order to address staffing shortfalls, the state should begin contacting family doctors and their staff and survey their availability. He said the state has what and who it needs to put together a comprehensive emergency action plan to address anticipated capacity, staffing and PPE needs, but it has not begun the process.

“No one will ever fault us for being over-prepared for the worst-case scenario, but blame will be well deserved if we choose to wait for whatever comes and do nothing to prepare,” Ainsworth said.

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Following his statements, Gov. Kay Ivey’s press secretary, Gina Maiola, issued a statement saying:

The governor appreciates the hard work and dedication of her COVID-19 Task Force. She and Dr. Harris are working diligently to implement strong, statewide policies that will protect the people of Alabama, while allowing them to continue their daily lives as much as possible during this unprecedented time. The lieutenant governor’s memo only reinforces the actions of her Task Force, and the governor intends to continue taking a measured and practical approach regarding both the gravity of the virus and also keeping the economy alive.”

If you develop symptoms for the coronavirus and need to be tested, call 1-888-264-2256.

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