LEE COUNTY, Ala. (WSFA) - In East Alabama, coronavirus cases are rising at a surprising rate. Officials at the East Alabama Medical Center are sharing their concerns as the number of available hospital beds continues to drop.
“Today we are at our highest number since we peaked, or thought we peaked, back in April,” said EAMC spokesperson, John Atkinson.
54 patients was the most being treated at once at EAMC back in April, now they’re at 45 and eight of those patients are on ventilators.
“On June 26, we had 16 positive cases in the hospital, so we have nearly tripled that number in just two-and-a-half weeks,” Atkinson said.
Atkinson said that the hospital cannot handle if the increase continues.
“Not on the current trend,” he said. “People say ‘well your capacity is 314 and you only had 259 last week, what the problem?' All beds are not created equal. Some of our beds are mother-baby. You can’t take a COVID patient to mother-baby. You have a certain number of respiratory care workers, you have a certain number of critical care workers.”
Officials say that although testing has increased, that doesn’t fully justify the increase in cases.
“The problem is that back then the percentage of positives was like 8 or 9 but now we’re at 12 or 13 on a regular basis,” Atkinson said. “People tend to place their allegiance to not wearing a mask based on who their political candidates are, and this is not a political issue at all. This is a public health issue. In times like this you’ve got to put differences aside. You‘ve got to put your pride aside. This is time to step it up for yourself and for your community.”
EAMC’s testing drive-through recorded 613 patients last week, the most in any one week. Calls to the 528-SICK call center increased last week also. Call and testing volumes have now risen six straight weeks.
“With so many new cases being reported every day in our community, the uncertainty of how many will turn into hospitalizations is what concerns our physicians and employees,” said Atkinson.
Of Alabama’s 67 counties, 39 of them—including Lee County and every county that Lee County touches—are at a “very high” risk for spread in the community.
“This is not just a problem in east Alabama; most of the state is still struggling,” Atkinson stated. “Last week, we had a hospital in Mississippi looking to place a patient they didn’t have room for. That means other hospitals across Alabama turned them down before they reached out to us, and we had to turn them down as well. That’s not something we like to do; but we’re just not in a position to accept patients from elsewhere right now.”
Auburn University Medical Clinic has also seen significant numbers. Last week, they received 8,987 phone calls in only four days. Of the 814 tests they performed, 107 were positive for a positive percentage rate of 13.1 percent.