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Cases of COVID-19 are on the rise, but most patients are experiencing less severe consequences than in 2021. CONTRIBUTED

COVID-19 cases more than double in Alabama

MADISON COUNTY – COVID-19 cases are increasing in Alabama, and North Alabama is experiencing a dramatic rise in patients.

During the past month, COVID-19 cases in Alabama hospitals have more than doubled. However, hospital officials say are dealing with fewer severe cases, compared to the start of 2022.

“But if you compare the rate of increase in hospitalizations now with what we saw with Omicron in January or with Delta, last fall, our rate of increase is dramatically slower,” Don Williamson said. Williamson is President of Alabama Hospital Association. (July 16, Kayla Smith, whnt.com)

“Where the difference is really demonstrable is in people who have been boosted. Only 16 percent of people who are in the hospital have been boosted,” Williamson said. Overall, booster recipients do not need hospital admission.

“While vaccines and prior disease do not guarantee that you won’t get infected, they still do a remarkable job of keeping you out of the hospital and keeping you from dying,” Williamson said.

Doctors now have medicines to treat COVID-19. Drugs like Paxlovid, which is about 90 percent effective, are helping patients.

“Monoclonal antibodies didn’t exist two years ago. We’ve learned more about . . . how to turn patients and keep their lungs working as optimally as possible,” Huntsville Hospital President Tracy Doughty said. “We’ve learned more about ventilator settings and how to optimize those.” (July 15, Brian Lawson, whnt.com)

On July 18, Huntsville Hospital and Women and Children’s Hospital had 58 in-patients positive for COVID-19, doubling the number from mid-June. One COVID-19 patient is on a ventilator, four COVID-19 ICU patients and 55 patients under investigation.

Madison Hospital has 9 in-patients positive for COVID-19, no ventilator or ICU patients and 13 patients under investigation for the virus.

State and local hospital officials are seeing favorable signs about the severity of illness. They do not expect a huge surge for summer, like the scenario in 2021.

As of July 15, 628 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized in Alabama. In 2021, that number was 371.

Hospital administrators know that the increase in patients is taxing the resilience of hospital workers.

“Between last summer and now, there was this mass exodus of people who left healthcare,” Williamson said. “We’ve filled some of that with traveling staff, but that’s a temporary solution.”

Doughty said local hospitals may have to ask staff to work extra shifts if the caseload increases.

“Our staff is great,” Doughty said. “They are community advocates and they will step up and work extra shifts if that’s what it takes to protect our community.”

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