TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Following the Christmas holiday and ahead of New Year's Eve, DCH Health System continues to see high coronavirus inpatient totals as experts warn of an additional spike in cases in the coming weeks due to holiday gatherings and travel.
DCH reported a total of 171 coronavirus hospitalizations on Monday. Of those patients, 36 are being treated in intensive care units (ICUs) and 2o are on ventilators.
Over the last seven days, DCH has averaged 21 new coronavirus hospitalizations per day.
Tuscaloosa County has confirmed a total of 12,616 coronavirus cases since March, with another 5,243 classified as probable.
DCH Health System on Monday reported a total of 24 new coronavirus cases admitted at its hospitals in Tuscaloosa and Northport to begin the week, bringing its overall total to 171 inpatients. This comes as Alabama broke its statewide hospitalization record on Monday, logging 2,802 individuals receiving inpatient care across the state.
What's more, the hospital system reported 17 more deaths of coronavirus-positive patients since last Monday, bringing its cumulative total since the start of the pandemic to 343, with more than half of those being patients not from Tuscaloosa, but elsewhere in DCH's 11-county service area. Of the coronavirus deaths reported over the last seven days at DCH, five of those were residents of Tuscaloosa County, bringing the county's death toll to 155 since the beginning of the pandemic.
"The total COVID-19 positive inpatient numbers continue to be very high," said DCH Vice President of Marketing and Communication Andy North in an email to Patch on Monday. "At times during the day we are in the 170s. Currently it is not uncommon see numbers in the high 160s at the time of the daily update (around 5 p.m.) but when you look at the prior day it may show something in the low 150s, for example. The second number is the total COVID-19 positive inpatient population as of 11:59 p.m., so a lot of discharges are happening throughout the day."
North then said the hospital system has continued to bring in HEPA filtration systems to be able to quickly convert rooms and units to negative pressure as needed. In many cases, this involves the hospital removing a room's window to set up the filtration system, which exhausts to the outside and not in the hospital's indoor air filtration infrastructure.
"With colder weather and the holidays we anticipate more people will be moving indoors which will cause numbers to rise," he said. "Over the past few months, with most major holidays we have seen increases in inpatient numbers starting about a week to 10 days later."
When asked about the status of vaccinations locally, North said DCH continues to follow guidelines set out by the Alabama Department of Public Health, which has defined the timing and distribution of the coronavirus vaccines as they come available. He pointed out the system is still in phase 1a of the ADPH plan.
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"This plan is updated regularly," he said. "Phase 1a is primarily for frontline health workers (inpatient and outpatient) and some first responders. We hope to have a system in place soon to be able to regularly report vaccination numbers to the public."
North did not comment when asked about the status of elective surgeries at DCH, which has been a kind of barometer for local government officials in gauging the availability of private and semi-private patients rooms, but reiterated that the public continue to avoid gatherings that include members from outside of their households.
"Please continue to wear a mask in public and wash your hands regularly," North said. "Your help can make the difference."