Less than two months since hitting a pandemic high in September, COVID-19 hospitalizations at East Alabama Health hospitals have fallen to 11, as of Nov. 2. An EAH spokesperson is “cautiously optimistic” for the future.
Of the 11 patients hospitalized at East Alabama Medical Center or EAMC-Lanier on Tuesday, only two were in the intensive care unit and one was on a ventilator.
After 93 patients were being treated for COVID on Sept. 4 — the most throughout the pandemic — hospitalizations began to drop in mid-September.
Many of the people hospitalized during the peak in September died from COVID-19. The 44 deaths at EAH in September surpassed January’s 43 as the most in one month during the pandemic.
“A decline in hospitalizations is not all good news,” wrote John Atkinson, public relations director for EAH, in an Oct. 14 email.
While some patients hospitalized during the September peak died from the virus, others recovered, and fewer COVID-19 patients were admitted in the weeks after. The number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 at EAH has remained below 16 since Oct. 15.
“It’s still difficult for the people who were working directly with the patients over the past month and a half when we had all these deaths,” Atkinson said. “But now that there are fewer admissions, much fewer admissions, everybody’s, I think, relieved.”
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With fewer COVID-19 patients, treatment has become much more manageable, but the hospital is still very busy, now with elective procedures people had put off in August and September when patients occasionally were made to wait in the emergency department for over 24 hours for a nursing bed to become available.
“Everybody’s very relieved … to be able to work on other things and care for other patients,” Atkinson said.
Atkinson said he and other healthcare officials expected this moment to come earlier, when the vaccine was first delivered. When fewer people than they hoped got vaccinated, they were worried about the virus transmitting at football games and other large group gatherings.
“I think we were all concerned,” Atkinson said. “School started back and all the football games and we expected the numbers to get worse and then they didn’t. I think everybody was like, ‘Oh my gosh, that's such a relief.’”
While only 40% of Lee County is fully vaccinated, the COVID-19 positivity rate in Alabama is much lower than it was just two months ago, from 22% on Sept. 1 to 4.9% on Nov. 1. The transmission rate of the Delta variant responsible for 98-99% of new cases has also fallen significantly, and there’s no indication of a new variant to overcome it, Atkinson said.
“There's a little bit of concern going into the holiday season, but we’re cautiously optimistic,” Atkinson said.
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