MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Montgomery County saw nearly 100 new cases of COVID-19 over the last 24 hours and trails only Mobile County for the state’s highest caseload of the respiratory illness, according to the latest data from the Alabama Department of Public Health.
Despite Montgomery (population 227,000) being about half Mobile’s size (population 415,000), it trails the coastal county by just 226 cases of the respiratory illness.
And Montgomery is also outpacing Jefferson County (population 660,000), home to Birmingham, which has three times as many residents.
“Montgomery and the surrounding areas throughout Central Alabama remain a hotspot for the virus, and yet many citizens appear to think the worst is over,” said Dr. David Thrasher, Director of Respiratory Therapy at Jackson Hospital. “I can assure you that Montgomery’s cases are not going down."
Montgomery makes up more than 10 percent of the state’s 21,000 cases, or about 2,220, and at 56, it also accounts for 13 percent of the state’s 725 deaths so far.
“The trends we are seeing in central Alabama are alarming,” added Dr. Don Williamson, the president of the Alabama Hospital Association.
Two deaths have been reported Tuesday on top of six from Monday. There’s no indication the state is seeing any leveling off or decline in coronavirus infections.
“If we do not make changes in our daily behavior, there’s no way we can avoid increasing numbers of cases and deaths,” Williamson said. “We can’t stress enough the importance of staying home if possible, keeping at least six feet apart from people, wearing masks, washing your hands frequently and avoiding gatherings where you aren’t able to maintain these precautions.”
Even more concerning is data from the last 14 days. Montgomery has seen 825 new cases compared to 427 in Mobile County and 449 in Jefferson County.
And even with double the rates, the hospital association points out the Montgomery number only includes residents of that county, not those from surrounding River Region counties seeking medical help at the area’s four hospitals.
"It is important that members of the community do not ease up on the safety precautions laid out by the CDC,” cautioned Jan Hill, Jackson Hospital Chief Nursing Officer.
Each of the area’s hospitals is reporting large increases in COVID-19 inpatient numbers. Citing the growing strain, the hospital association says both Baptist Health and Jackson have had to seek supplemental staffing due to the increased number of hospitalizations and the need to quarantine some of their own staff.
As of Monday, 164 patients are being treated for COVID-19 in local hospitals; Baptist Health reported some of its highest numbers with 71 patients at South, 33 at East, and 17 at Prattville Baptist. At Jackson Hospital, 42 patients are being treated.
Dr. Donovan Kendrick, Chief Medical Officer at Baptist Health, noted that area hospitals have been able to manage large numbers of COVID-19 patients, so far, while still caring for others needing emergency or elective medical procedures.
But, as Thrasher warned, "if our community does not take this seriously, the virus will continue to spread, and at some point, our medical capacity will reach its limit.”
There’s no reason Montgomery’s case numbers should be above much more populated counties, Williamson added. “It’s a real threat, and we believe it’s our obligation to let individuals know the risks and understand what’s going on.”