Before Gov. Kay Ivey issued a stay-at-home order on April 3, making Alabama one of the last states in the South to issue such a directive, East Alabama Medical Center had been “pleading with the public” to stay home. Now, the hospital is saying that the order is, so far, essentially ineffective because of the exceptions that were put in place.
“While we were all very relieved to hear Governor Ivey issue the order, unfortunately, due to the many exceptions in place in the order, not much has changed in our community since it went into effect on Saturday,” the hospital said in a statement. “Children are still playing together, people are still congregating in public places and stores are packed with people.”
EAMC released a predictive model on Friday, hours after Ivey’s announcement. That model lays out East Alabama resident's chances of fending themselves against COVID-19 in unflinching terms. If 75% of people in East Alabama practice social distancing, EAMC reports that it will see its peak number of COVID-19 patients and hospitalizations on June 15. On that date, EAMC would have 74 total patients — 28 of whom would be in ICU and, of those, 21 would be on a ventilator.
“Those numbers are manageable,” said John Atkinson, public relations and marketing director for EAMC. “But the problem is that the peak is not until June 15, meaning that the 75 percent of people doing the right thing will have to do it for more than two more months.”
If 50% of people practice social distancing, then the prediction becomes more dire. The peak date for patients and hospitalizations will move up to May 15; there will be substantially more East Alabamians sick, with 577 hospitalized, 221 people in ICU and 163 people on a ventilator. This, EAMC reports, would unequivocally overwhelm the hospital’s health care system and lead to more deaths.
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“Looking at our predictive modeling tool, in order [for] us to flatten the curve and save lives in our community, social distancing needs to be at 100%,” the hospital stated.
Here’s what EAMC is recommending people do to ensure the region’s hospital is not overwhelmed:
Shelter in place at home
EAMC said this means staying at home with immediate family members or those who people normally live with. This doesn't mean, EAMC said, having friends and family members visit or going to their house.
In the governor’s order, visiting family is allowed. The order states that “a person may leave his or her place of residence to visit the residence of other persons who are related to him or her.”
But that is contrary to what health experts and medical professionals are recommending at EAMC, and the hospital is urging residents that unless those family members live with you, “you do not need to spend time with them until the threat of the virus has decreased.”
Leave home only for essential activities
This means leaving home to retrieve food, but only when absolutely necessary, going to work and receiving essential medical care, according to EAMC. The hospital clarified that essential activities don’t include going to the grocery store when you don’t have to or going inside restaurants to pick up to-go orders, EAMC said.
“Choose a restaurant that has a drive-thru or curbside pick-up,” EAMC stated in a press release.
Essential activities also don’t include going to parks, playgrounds, nature preserves or public spaces, according to EAMC.
While Alabama’s stay-at-home order states that “a person may leave his or her place of residence to participate in outdoor activity that involves fewer than 10 people so long as the person maintains a consistent six-foot distance from other persons,” EAMC is asking people to do the following:
- Not go to the lake if you don’t normally live there
- Not take your dog on a walk where you don’t live, or to a dog park
- Not play golf, tennis or other sports that do not take place at your home
- Not go to your neighborhood pool or a pool at a friend’s house
- Not go on a walk with a friend or anyone who you do not live with
- Not allow your children to play with friends or anyone other than your own children, even if they stay outside and maintain a 6-foot distance
Health and wellness
EAMC is also asking people to refrain from “going to the dentist, chiropractor, massage therapist, therapy or other such wellness visits that are” non-emergency.
Alabama’s stay-at-home order states that “a person may leave his or her place of residence to attend an event that is a religious worship service, wedding or funeral” as long as the event has 10 or fewer people and everyone maintains a 6-foot distance.
The order goes on to detail that “drive-in” worship services are permitted so long as everyone remains in their vehicles for the entirety of the service, everyone in the vehicle lives in the same residence and a six-foot separation is still adhered to among vehicles.
But EAMC is asking residents to stay home and listen or watch services virtually. The hospital is also asking residents to not invite people over to watch services online and to not pick people up to take them to a drive-in service.
“We have solid proof right here in our community that people gathering at churches as well as funerals is a very serious matter and sadly, has caused many hospitalizations and even deaths,” EAMC stated. “The risk for both is just too great.”
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