JeffCo Health Officer: COVID-19 Straining Entire Public Health System

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Jefferson County Health Officer Dr. Mark Wilson said the spread of COVID-19 is now much worse than it was in April, but some people are acting as if the virus “isn’t a problem at all.” During a press conference Tuesday, Wilson said a significant portion of new cases are among people aged 20-45 who are less likely to be hospitalized due to the virus but are spreading it to others. 

Wilson said there is not a single event or location driving the rise in case numbers, but he is concerned about people gathering in private spaces.

“That’s where we’re seeing a lot of spread,” Wilson said. “That’s where government doesn’t have a lot of control over behavior.”

As of Tuesday morning, 278 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Jefferson County, with 110 patients in intensive care. Wilson said area hospitals and medical staff are overwhelmed, testing sites are near capacity, and labs are facing backlogs. 

“COVID-19 is now putting a strain on every part of our health care and public health system,” Wilson said.

UAB Hospital reported a record-breaking number of inpatients Tuesday, treating 105 people with COVID-19. Due to the increase, the hospital recently implemented part of its surge plan. Dr. Sarah Nafziger, co-chair of UAB’s Emergency Management Committee, said they are redirecting resources and using part of the emergency department waiting room to care for COVID patients. 

“The downside of designating additional COVID-19 beds,” Nafziger said, “is that, by definition, it reduces the number of beds that are available for patients who have non-COVID medical needs.”

She said if numbers continue to increase, the hospital may have to limit other services, including elective surgeries and outpatient visits.

 

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