Alabama’s recent increase in coronavirus cases — what one official described as a “tidal wave” — could soon overwhelm hospitals in the state.
On Tuesday alone, the state added some 3,376 new or probable cases of COVID-19, per state estimates. Hospitalizations have also been on an upward trend in recent weeks, with 1,785 people in the state hospitalized due to COVID-19, also as of Tuesday.
Though hospitals have not yet reported shortages of beds or staff, one hospital official is concerned the recent uptick in cases could cause exactly that.
“Now we’re going into the holiday season and we could really be in a situation in the next two to three weeks that compromises our ability to provide health care,” said Jeanne Marrazzo, director of the division of infectious diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, according to AL.com.
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“We’ve been very cautious not to use alarmist terminology. We’ve been very cautious to always try to be scientifically accurate in our communications. But I think this is a time we need to start thinking about tidal wave imagery, tsunami imagery.
“If you look at our ICU bed situation right now in Alabama, it is not particularly optimistic,” Marrazzo added, noting that the numbers do not yet include new cases from Thanksgiving gatherings.
Health officials around the country have warned such festivities will likely lead to an increase in cases and hospitalizations in the coming weeks.
“You could conceivably see a true need for setting up ancillary care places in three weeks,” she continued. “I hope that doesn’t happen. Are we looking at the kind of situation that New York City experienced in March? Again, it depends. A lot depends on what happened over Thanksgiving weekend.”
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While it’s too late to prevent spikes related to Thanksgiving, it is not too late to prevent such spikes related to Christmas gatherings, said Marrazzo. She pleaded with Alabamians to take precautions as the holiday season approaches, such as avoiding large gatherings and wearing a face mask around those who do not live in the same household.
“We just have to continue to present people with facts,” Marrazzo said, according to AL.com. “Appeal to their better nature. Appeal to their community spirit and just beg them to help us get through the next couple of months until we can really get enough vaccine out there to help protect people for the rest of the year.”
The news comes as COVID-19 hospitalizations in the U.S. are on track to top 100,000 in the coming days — just after hospitalizations reached a new record high last week when they topped 90,000.