Alabama Hospital Association leader weighs in on latest COVID-19 trend

Published: Jul. 13, 2022 at 9:03 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 13, 2022 at 10:27 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - As the BA.5 COVID-19 variant sweeps across the Southeast, more and more Alabamians are being infected.

“I am more concerned, in the short term at least, about how the spread of BA.5 disrupts normal society, less concerned about its immediate impact on the health care system,” said Dr. Don Williamson with the Alabama Hospital Association

Williamson admitted that if community transmission levels continue to climb, we will likely see more hospitalizations.

While he explained vaccinations and prior infections do not prevent people from being infected with BA.5, they do reduce the odds of being hospitalized.

“We’re clearly not seeing the sort of spike in hospitalizations that we would have expected had this been the first omicron variant or the delta variant,” Williamson said.

He reports that 622 Alabamians are in the hospital with COVID-19. That includes 92 people in intensive care units and 38 people on ventilators.

A recent challenge for some hospitals has been staffing. Williamson explained less health care professionals are working now than during the omicron and delta spikes.

“We might have substantially greater difficulty dealing with 1,500 people in the hospital now, compared to what we were dealing with earlier in the year,” he said.

The doctor said at least 20% of health care professionals have left the workforce. Much of that staff was replaced with traveling nurses, which has been hard to maintain.

“So what hospitals are trying to do now is, to the extent that they can, they’ve hired some of that staff,” he said.

In many cases, he said hospital beds are being shut down to make do with the staff that is available.

On top of staffing shortages, Williamson said some health care workers that have previously been vaccinated or already had the disease are contracting COVID-19.

Once again, he said getting the vaccine and getting boosted is one of the best ways to stay out of the hospital.

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