Covid-19 hospitalizations at East Alabama Medical Center and EAMC-Lanier dropped sharply this week, falling below 70 for the the first time in about a month.
As of Wednesday afternoon, 67 patients were hospitalized between East Alabama Health's two campuses, with 19 of the 20 patients in the ICU on ventilators.
Of those total, unvaccinated patients continue to make up the vast majority of hospitalizations — 48 total, 16 in the ICU and 15 on ventilators.
The numbers don't tell the whole story, according EAMC's Dr. Mary Ann Shannon, who shared what the situation looked like inside of EAMC's ICU as it's filled with Covid-19 patients, stretching resources to the point that it creates a risky situation for anyone needing critical care quickly.
"Everybody has an opinion, everybody has read something that someone else has not read or something," she said. "None of that matters. What matters is what's actually happening, and what's happening with Covid is our hospital infrastructure cannot handle it. I'm not being dramatic. For the entire last week, my partners and I have seen record numbers of Covid patients, and it's overrunning hospitals."
As of Wednesday, 48 percent of all ICU patients in Alabama were Covid-19 positive, with 542 of the 755 patients, or 73 percent, on ventilators, according to Alabama Department of Public Health data.
"None of us want to think that the worst can happen to us. What we like to do, and we're all human, is we like to look at numbers and say, 'Oh, the odds are fine that I'm going to be OK for this. I'm not going to be personally affected by Covid even if I get it," said Shannon in the video shared by EAH. "But what you're not considering is when you or a loved one develop chest pain and you need to go have your heart checked out and have a heart catheterization; when you have a suspicious lump, and you need a surgeon to do a biopsy; when you cut off your finger using a table saw — any of the things that we take for granted now that we need to go to the hospital (for).
"If we go to a hospital in the middle of this surge where hospitals are being overrun, we can't be taken care of, and that's when Covid affects us all, regardless of what the numbers (may say)," Shannon added. "So please, get vaccinated, wear your mask, do anything you can do to make this stop because you never know when you or a loved one might need a hospital to be able to take care of you and be there for you."
Last Thursday, EAMC provided a breakdown of Covid-19 deaths in 2021 that shows the impact of the vaccine rollout over course of the year.
East Alabama Health reported 73 deaths from Jan. 1 to Feb. 28 as the rollout of vaccines was still in the early stages and not widely available to everyone. Of that total, 69 patients were unvaccinated and four partially vaccinated.
After the January-February peak subsided, EAH saw 28 patients die from Covid-19 between March 1 and July 31 (20 unvaccinated, five vaccinated, and 3 partially vaccinated). As the Delta variant spread throughout the region over the last two months, the number of Covid-19 deaths have jumped dramatically. From Aug. 1 to Sept. 8, EAH reports 36 deaths (27 unvaccinated, seven vaccinated and two partially vaccinated).
EAMC also broke the Covid-19 deaths in the hospital system into more granular detail:
• Of the 14 patients age 59 and younger who have died of Covid since March 1, none were vaccinated.
• Of the 66 total Covid deaths since March 1, 47 were unvaccinated, 12 were fully vaccinated and five were partially vaccinated.
• Of the 12 fully vaccinated patients who died, four were 60-69, one was 70-79, six were 80-89 and one was older than 90.
• Of the 5 partially vaccinated patients who died, one was 60-69, two were 70-79, and two were 80-89.
Comorbidities likely played a large role in the 12 vaccinated patients who have died from Covid-19 at EAH since March 1. EAH provided a snapshot of their collective conditions:
• 8 of the 12 were of advanced age (loosely defined as 70 and older)
• 8 had hypertension
• 5 had congestive heart failure
• 4 had coronary artery disease
• 4 had kidney disease
• 3 had diabetes
• 3 had a history of stroke
• 3 had a history of cancer
Currently, three vaccines have some level of approval in the United States from the Food and Drug Administration.
The FDA gave the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine full approval on Aug. 23 for individuals ages 16 and older. The vaccine has emergency use authorization for those ages 12-15. Pfizer is expected to seek emergency use authorization for its vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 years old in the coming weeks.
The push to get the Pfizer vaccine approved for use in children comes as the nation and state see an increase in the number of children severely affected by the coronavirus. As of Tuesday, the ADPH reported that 46 pediatric patients were hospitalized with Covid-19 in Alabama, with 21 of them in the ICU and seven on ventilators.
Both of the other vaccines available in the U.S. from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have emergency use approval from the FDA for those ages 18 and older.
All three vaccines are readily available in pharmacies throughout the community, with some locations accepting walk-ins.
The three approved vaccines are still highly effective at preventing severe disease and death, including against the Delta variant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC is also recommending using a layered prevention strategy, including wearing masks in public indoor spaces and areas of high transmission.