MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The Montgomery area is seeing a troubling rise in COVID-19 cases that is straining area hospitals and prompting the diversion of some patients to Birmingham facilities, according to Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed.
“Right now, if you are from Montgomery and you need an ICU bed, you are in trouble,” Reed warned, adding “we are at a very critical point in our health care system’s capacity to manage this crisis. They are at a capacity that is not sustainable.”
During a news conference Wednesday morning, the mayor and Montgomery County’s EMA Director, Christina Thornton, updated the situation, saying residents need to continue to use caution and urged them to use masks in public and to stay home as much as possible.
“We don’t want to lose any life because we don’t have the resources to treat them in this community,” Reed said Wednesday, pointing to the shortage of ICU beds at area hospitals.
Baptist Health has a total of 80 ICU Beds in their system: 58 at Baptist South, 16 at Baptist East, and six at Prattville. At Baptist East, they’re short by three beds. At Baptist South and in Prattville they are at “zero” ICU beds, and at Jackson there’s just one, Reed stated.
Baptist is treating 96 confirmed COVID-19 inpatients across its three River Region hospitals (not all are in the ICU) while Jackson has 30. There are still more inpatients who are awaiting test results.
While Reed said some patients have been diverted to Birmingham facilities, it should be noted this is not unusual; Baptist transfers patients to Birmingham for a host of reasons.
Montgomery County is currently producing one of the highest positive tests in the state and the city has been found on a White House list of ‘locations to watch’.
The county has seen 950 confirmed cases as of Wednesday morning with 25 COVID-19 related deaths. The mayor said between May 1-7, there was a 45 percent increase in positive cases, topped by a 46 percent rise the following week. Between May 14-19, cases have risen 20 percent.
The mayor said he understands some people have become fatigued by news of the pandemic and admitted with more testing there will be more cases. But he added “what we haven’t seen is a sustained downward trend.”
Montgomery and the county remain under a curfew from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. and Thornton is urging residents not to gather in large groups or block parties, particularly as Memorial Day nears, stressing such activities could spread the illness more.
The mayor also spoke to areas churches and businesses.
“I want to ask all of our faith leaders to exhibit a little more responsibility and to continue to work with us going forward,” he explained.
Pointing to cases around the country and Alabama showing some church gatherings have been connected to outbreaks, the mayor asked local congregations to continue with online or drive-up services for now.
“I certainly understand those who are ready to get back on track and expand businesses and get back to the plans they had for this year," Reed said, pointing out he’s been a small business owner. "We have to take all of the precautionary measures. We have to be honest about where we are right now.”
“We are not there yet," the mayor assessed. "We are still in a place where we can go either way, and we don’t want to slip and fall off the cliff.”
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey relaxed pandemic restrictions on gatherings and business openings in an order that went into effect on May 11. That order, which still has some restrictions, is set to expire on Friday.