The number of hospital patients with COVID-19 and people testing positive for the virus continues to spiral across Alabama and in Jefferson County, health experts participating in a UAB Hospital press conference said Monday.
In the past seven to 14 days, 8% of people tested for the coronavirus had been showing positive results. But in the past seven days, that proportion has risen to 13%, said Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, director of UAB’s Division of Infectious Diseases. Seattle, once a hotspot, is now down to 1.5%, she added.
Today, UAB has 68 COVID-19 patients, which Marazzo said is the highest number ever.
Usually about half the UAB patients with COVID-19 are on ventilators, said Dr. Sarah Nafziger, co-director of the UAB Hospital Emergency Management committee. She added that about 14% of COVID-19 patients tend to be transfers from other hospitals who need special intensive care available at UAB.
The number of confirmed cases had been trending upward and on Sunday morning hit a record 1,014. In Monday morning’s report, that number had declined to 657. The daily updates mostly reflect cases reported to the Health Department the previous day.
“One thing has changed,” Marrazzo said. “Most counties are reporting (new) cases on a daily basis, and now they are being drawn from rural areas where there is a higher prevalence for bad outcomes from COVID.”
In Jefferson County, the portion of people testing positive for COVID had been 4% to 5% for the past few weeks, said county Health Officer Dr. Mark Wilson.
“The last three days, it has been over 10 percent — the first time that we have seen it go up that high,” he added.
Nafziger said every hospital in the state “is doing the best it can to take care of patients.”
UAB does not have enough of the drug remdesivir to treat all the people in the hospital, health care workers are stressed and the supply of PPEs “has been the biggest challenge in this crisis and it continues to be,” the doctors said.
“UAB is a little bit weary, but we will still be here to take care of our patients and do our jobs,” she said.
However, she said that if hospitalizations continue to rise, UAB might have to discontinue performing some elective procedures so it can adequately handle its case load.
Marrazzo said health officials are looking at trends in the thick of the increase in COVID-19 cases, and they have found that “people have stopped wearing masks and social distancing. If you are going to wear a mask and don’t want to do it for yourself, do it for the health care workers,” she said.
Wilson reiterated that people who do not have virus symptoms still can be carriers of COVID-19.
“That’s why we are asking people to take precautions and wear face coverings in public. A lot of COVID-19 is spread in homes, try not to think just about yourself,” he said.
Addressing rumors that the pandemic is a hoax, Nafziger said, “I would not be standing here if it were a fluke. It is serious, and it will continue to be. We are going to have to do things that are uncomfortable,” she added, such as social distancing, wearing masks and practicing good hygiene.
Marrazzo said that some people have referred to this as the second wave of the pandemic, but it’s not because “UAB never stopped from the first wave, she said.
People had been practicing social distancing earlier in the pandemic, and that held down cases in Alabama, she said. But when Alabama started reopening, they seemed to think things were going back to normal. “We have to embrace this as the new normal,” she said.