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People are urged to use a pulse oximeter, a small device that can be put on a finger to monitor oxygen saturation and heart rate.

Oxygen monitoring urged as hospitals see jump in COVID patients over Labor Day weekend

Over the Labor Day weekend, hospitals in North Alabama say an increase in COVID-19 patients. Huntsville Hospital Health Systems reported yesterday they added 27 more patients with the virus since the Labor Day weekend began. Currently, there are 421 patients with COVID throughout the facilities in Madison, Limestone, Morgan, Colbert and Franklin counties. There are 105 in ICU and 68 on ventilators.

Madison Hospital saw an increase from 50 to 57 COVID patients between Friday and Tuesday. Eight are in ICU with seven of those on ventilators.

Local healthcare officials are saying people are waiting until their blood-oxygen levels are too low before coming to the hospital, a delay that can have fatal consequences.

They advise if the oxygen saturation level falls below 80, the chance of survival drops significantly. People are urged to use a pulse oximeter, a small device that can be put on a finger to monitor oxygen saturation and heart rate. The devices are available for less than $20.

After a surge in late December, new cases dropped dramatically from March until early July. Since then, new cases have reached new peaks statewide and hospitalizations are just shy of their January peak.

Judy Smith, administrator of the Alabama Department of Public Health Northern District, said the temporary drop in COVID case numbers left people complacent.

“As the vaccine numbers dropped, we had a bounce effect,” Smith said. “The deaths went back up, the hospitalizations went back up, and cases continue to soar.”

She said low vaccination rates mean Morgan County residents need to be especially cautious — by wearing masks and socially distancing — when they are out in public.

Statewide on Tuesday, 2,724 patients were hospitalized with COVID, including 52 pediatric patients, according to the Alabama Hospital Association.

Smith said that ball games and the Labor Day weekend, as well as August events in Cullman such as Rock the South and a heavily attended political rally featuring former President Donald Trump, have likely contributed to the increase in COVID cases and will increasingly cause a rise in hospitalizations.

“The numbers from this we will see in the next two to three weeks,” she said. “We’re not at the end. We’re probably fixing to have another peak.”

She said too many people are utilizing home remedies such as ivermectin, a horse dewormer that has poisoned many people nationwide, when the vaccines are extremely effective.

“Why would you pay a lot of money to go to an agriculture store to buy treatments that are not even proven, when you can go for free and get a vaccine?” she said.

Madison Hospital is hosting a COVID-19 testing clinic from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. The testing team will work from a tent in the Madison Hospital Wellness Center parking lot. Walk-ins are welcome.

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