Hospitalizations of Covid-19 patients have leaped over the past week at East Alabama Medical Center to the highest level since mid-February, when the area was on the downward slope of January's pandemic peak.
As of Wednesday morning, 43 people were hospitalized with Covid-19 at EAMC and EAMC-Lanier, a significant jump from the beginning of the month, when 26 patients were hospitalized on Aug. 3. Only one patient is currently on a ventilator. The low ventilation number is due to improved treatment and a lower average age of patients, according to Dr. Michael Roberts, chief of staff at East Alabama Health.
“As clinicians, we take what we learn over the course of time and apply it going forward in an effort to improve patient outcomes. Over the past 15 months, we have learned tactics that we can use that reduce the number of patients requiring a ventilator. Some are plans we do in the hospital setting, while others — such as infusions of monoclonal antibodies — are done in an effort to prevent hospitalization," said Roberts. "“Prior to vaccines being available, the majority of our patients were 65 and older and therefore more likely to have health issues that — when combined with Covid-19 — can make it difficult for their body to keep up.
"This age group (65 and up) more readily accepted the vaccine as soon as it became available and so now the age breakdown among hospitalized patients with Covid is more spread out. In fact, the average age of Covid patients in Alabama was 54 in July. At EAMC, we’ve had many in their 30s, 40s and 50s. So while ventilator usage is down, we still have patients who become very sick from Covid, and, sadly, some across several age brackets who die from Covid.”
As of Monday when hospitalizations sat at 44, the vast majority of those hospitalized remain unvaccinated (36, or about 82 percent). Seven hospitalized patients were fully vaccinated, with one more partially vaccinated, according to a news release from East Alabama Health. Of those 44 patients, nine were in ICU, with eight being unvaccinated.
With some parents still venting their frustrations about the decision to mandate masks indoors and on buses for Auburn City Schools, EAMC released some information from the Pediatric Clinic last Friday. The clinic has seen a sharp rise in the positivity rate over the summer — the rate was 2.78 percent in mid-May, but had risen to 14.9 percent for the week ending Aug. 1.
The Pediatric Clinic reported 65 Covid cases last week and expects that number to rise with school starting back this week.
"We had optimism in late June/early July (this year) that we might be able to go back to school without masks and Covid restrictions. In the last three-and-a-half weeks, we’ve certainly seen a spike in Covid activity in the community, with about 60 cases in our clinic alone each of the last two weeks, and positivity rates going to 15 to 16 percent in the last two weeks," said Dr. Richard Glaze, of the Pediatric Clinic, in a news release last Friday. "We understand that people don’t like masks; we don’t like them either. We understand that it’s become a symbol of what the pandemic has meant to everybody and that we’re all tired of it."
Still, Glaze echoed other pediatric doctors in stressing that wearing masks in school is important to help limit the spread of the coronavirus among children, which will help keep the school open and also protect parents and grandparents.
"We want you to enjoy life and enjoy getting out and about, but you should think about what you do in large groups and what you do when you’re in close contact with other people,” he said.
Getting vaccinated is still the best way to fend off serious illness from Covid-19 and avoid hospitalization.
Vaccines are readily available in Auburn at the following locations, with the vaccine type offered and registration options:
• American Family Care; Moderna; 1902 College Street; www.afcurgentcare.com/south-college-st/
• Auburn Pharmacy; Moderna and J&J; 643 N. Dean Road; 334-521-0455; walk-in
• Auburn Urgent Care; Moderna; 1650-A S. College St.; call 334-821-3221
• CVS Pharmacy; Pfizer/Moderna; 1498 Opelika Road; www.cvs.com
East Alabama Apothecary (inside EAMC); Pfizer; 2000 Pepperell Parkway; 334-528-2293.
• Sam's Club; Moderna; 2335 Bent Creek Road; www.samsclub.com/covid
• Walmart; Moderna; 2047 E. University Drive; www.walmart.com