By Scott Buttram, publisher
TRUSSVILLE — In the ongoing battle with COVID-19, there is both good news and bad news in Alabama. As the death rate continues to fall, hospitalizations have hit an all time high. State officials said Thanksgiving gatherings are not to blame because it is too early for the holiday to impact either number.
The death rate in Alabama has fallen to 1.56 deaths per day, the lowest average since April 4. Much of the credit in the declining death rate is being attributed to better therapeutic treatment for patients and increasing knowledge of the virus by healthcare professionals.
Quicker recognition by doctors of patients experiencing high risk symptoms is playing a major role in declining deaths, Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease, critical care and emergency medicine physician who works at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told NPR.
He says that doctors have developed standardized treatments that have been promulgated by groups such as the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
“We know that when people are getting standardized treatment, it makes it much easier to deal with the complications that occur because you already have protocols in place,” Adalja said. “And that’s definitely what’s happened in many hospitals around the country.”
While the declining death rate is good news, hospitalizations due to COVID-19 in Alabama have hit an all time high, threatening to overload hospitals.
Alabama on Monday reached a new high for the number of people in state hospitals with COVID-19, a record that comes before an expected spike in cases in the weeks following Thanksgiving gatherings.
Alabama Department of Public Health numbers indicated that 1,717 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state, the highest number reported since the coronavirus pandemic began. The previous high was a little over 1,600 in mid-summer.
“The spread is out of control. That is probably the least inflammatory way I can describe it,” said Dr. Don Williamson, the former state health officer who now heads the Alabama Hospital Association. “I try not to engage hyperbole, but I’m truly worried,” he added.
Williamson said the state is seeing more COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and patients in intensive care units than in July, which previously had been considered the peak of the pandemic.
“The problem is none of this is due to Thanksgiving,” Williamson noted. He said it will take several more days to start seeing the impact of Thanksgiving gatherings on cases and hospitalizations.
Williamson has said a significant concern for hospitals is the number of nurses and other medical employees who are out because they have gotten COVID-19 or have been exposed to the virus.