The number of patients on ventilators at East Alabama Medical Center and EAMC-Lanier in Valley rose sharply over the past week, approaching January's pandemic peak, as hospitalizations remained high between the two campuses.
As of Thursday morning, 72 patients were hospitalized with Covid-19 at EAMC and EAMC-Lanier, with 12 patients on ventilators, slightly lower than the 16 patients on ventilators earlier this week. The pandemic peak of patients on ventilators (20) came on the same day EAMC had its highest census totals for hospitalized patients (92) on Jan. 11.
The higher number of patients on ventilators was not something hospital officials were expecting after vaccines became widely available.
"We're seeing a lot of younger patients needing ventilators with this surge, including ones in their 20s and ones who are peri-partum (pregnant)," said Dr. Meshia Wallace, a pulmonologist and critical care physician at EAMC, in a news release. "They tend to have less comorbidities than patients in previous surges, but still need help because the Delta variant just seems to be making patients sicker.
"What we're seeing here is what other hospitals are seeing as well, and that is that people who are vaccinated and experience a breakthrough case are very unlikely to be admitted to the ICU or to need to be placed on a ventilator."
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was given full approval by the FDA on Monday, while Moderna's vaccine could receive full approval as early as next month. Johnson & Johnson has yet to submit its application for full approval.
Health experts are hoping the full approval of the Pfizer vaccine for those ages 16 and older will lead to more people getting vaccinated in Alabama.
According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, as of Tuesday the positivity rate of tests in Lee County over the past seven days is 23.3 percent. In total, Lee County has had 19,342 cases since the pandemic began in March 2020, with more than 2 percent of that total coming in the last seven days.
Statewide, the pandemic is in full force once again. As of Wednesday afternoon, 2,845 patients were hospitalized in Alabama with Covid-19, including 41 pediatric patients and 853 total patients in the ICU, with 543 on ventilators, according to the ADPH. About 56 percent of the state's ventilators are in use, and 52 percent of all ICU patients are Covid-19 positive.
On Monday alone, 36 confirmed deaths from Covid-19 were reported in Alabama, bringing the state's total to 12,000 since the pandemic began. The state added 54 more Covid deaths on Tuesday, with 450 total Covid deaths in the past 10 days. Lee County has reported 192 deaths from Covid-19 since March 2020.