MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama on Monday set a record of more than 2,000 COVID-19 patients in state hospitals as some facilities began to postpone non-emergency procedures amid staff shortages.
There were 2,079 patients in state hospitals with COVID-19 — the highest number since the pandemic began, according to state numbers from the Alabama Department of Public Health.
Health officials said staffing availability is a major concern. Ssome facilities have as many as 100 staff members out with COVID-19.
Decatur Morgan Hospital President Kelli Powers said in a Monday briefing to local news outlets that the north Alabama hospital is beginning to struggle with staffing, has had to create additional intensive care unit beds and had to borrow two ventilators.
She said the hospital is facing competition with states for nurses who can make large sums by working as travel nurses out of state, she said.
“This is a dire emergency for our state. … I know money is important but it’s not everything when you have people dying in your community,” Powers said.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital on Monday said it had 130 patients who have tested positive for COVID-19, another record for the hospital.
The state health department has reported more than 272,000 confirmed and probable virus cases and at least 3,892 confirmed and probable virus deaths in Alabama. While the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms in most people, it can be deadly for the elderly and people with other, serious health problems.
A statewide order requiring face masks in public expires on Dec. 11, but Republican Gov. Kay Ivey could extend the mandate for additional weeks as she has done in the past. Medical officials have encouraged Ivey to extend the order.