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ICUs nearly at capacity in Alabama amid coronavirus surge

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama’s intensive care units were near capacity Monday amid the state’s ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases.

The state has 1,562 intensive care unit beds but had 1,560 hospitalized patients needing intensive care Monday, according to Dr. Don Williamson, the former state health officer who now heads the Alabama Hospital Association.

“This is the greatest demand on the ICU system we’ve ever had,” Williamson said.

Intensive care units in hard-hit areas of the state are at or over capacity. The Birmingham area has 22 beds available.

Alabama has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases fueled by the highly contagious delta variant and the state’s low vaccination rate. Case and hospitalization numbers are quickly approaching what they were at the winter peak of the pandemic.

COVID-19 patients accounted for 48% of Alabama’s intensive care unit patients Monday, Williamson said. There were 759 COVID-19 patients in intensive care, compared with a record 848 at the winter peak of the pandemic.

“We’re at a very serious point right now as testing supplies are running low in the community, our three emergency departments are seeing long waits, and our COVID Infusion Center is running 12 hours a day, seven days a week,” said John Atkinson, a spokesman for East Alabama Medical Center.

“Hospitals cannot keep up this pace — resources are running low and personnel to care for patients are stretched very thin,” Atkinson said.

There were 2,631 COVID-19 patients in state hospitals Monday, a figure that is rapidly approaching the record 3,087 COVID-19 patients in state hospitals in January.

The overwhelming majority of hospitalized virus patient are unvaccinated. Williamson said 85% of hospitalized patients are unvaccinated while 12% were fully vaccinated and 3% were partially vaccinated. He said the numbers were based on responses from hospitals, and they received vaccination status on more than 80% of patients.

East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika was caring for 57 patients Monday afternoon. Of those, 46 are unvaccinated, while eight are fully vaccinated and three are partially vaccinated, according to the hospital.

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