East Alabama Medical Center reported a continued rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations on Tuesday with a total of 41 cases being treated in the medical center earlier this week.
This total is approaching the previous peak of COVID-19 hospitalizations — 54 — which EAMC experienced in April.
The number of ventilators in use has also been climbing and, on Monday, reached its highest point since May.
Ricardo Maldonado, an infectious diseases specialist at EAMC, and Michael Roberts, an internal medicine specialist and EAMC's chief of staff, said that if community adherence to social distancing and mask guidelines didn't improve, people may see another shelter in place order.
"If hospitals get overwhelmed again, another shelter in place order could come, along with its devastation on the economy and mental health," Maldonado said. "It is up to the public to help stop this upward trend in cases."
According to Maldonado, there are very simple things that people can do to slow the spread and prevent another shelter in place order.
"Not wearing a face mask inside a public building is simply irresponsible and selfish," he said. "I feel your pain as I also have family, friends and activities that I miss, but doing these few things to help stop the spread are a small price to pay to avoid another shelter in place order."
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Maldonado said he remembers the conditions inside the medical center in April, the last time the state issued a shelter in place order.
"I remember vividly that first week in April when we peaked," he said. "The anxiety in the ER, the ICU and the COVID-19 floor. [...] I saw even the toughest nurses break down out of fatigue and the feeling of hopelessness."
Maldonado said that the recent rise in cases is potentially more concerning than the rise in April because the transmissions are more widespread.
"Right now, we have massive widespread transmission in our community, unlike what we saw in April, which was made up of smaller local outbreaks in places like churches," he said.
Roberts said that even though some people are tired of following guidelines and hearing about COVID-19, that doesn't mean it is ok to relax them.
"We are all fatigued to some degree about the restrictions on gathering and travel," Roberts said. "For some, it is because they are uncomfortable, and for others, masks seem to have become a political issue. As the current graph reveals, now is not the time to let out guard down."
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