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Alabama Hospitals Have Run Out Of ICU Beds As COVID-19 Cases Surge

East Alabama Medical Center nurse Harvard Graham checks fluids for a COVID-19 patient in the intensive care unit Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020, in Opelika, Ala. Just as in other places across the country, a surge in infections linked to Thanksgiving is now filling up beds at the hospital.
East Alabama Medical Center nurse Harvard Graham checks fluids for a COVID-19 patient in the intensive care unit Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020, in Opelika, Ala. Just as in other places across the country, a surge in infections linked to Thanksgiving is now filling up beds at the hospital.

Alabama hospitals have run out of ICU beds as COVID-19 cases spike there, putting a renewed strain on the state's health care system.

There were negative 29 intensive care unit beds available on Wednesday night, according to the Alabama Hospital Association and the Alabama Department of Public Health. That means there were 29 more patients in need of ICU care than there were beds available.

"We've never been here before. We are truly now in uncharted territory in terms of our ICU bed capacity," AHA President Donald Williamson told WSFA 12 News on Tuesday.

The recent run on hospital beds, reminiscent of the early days of the pandemic, is occurring largely in states with the lowest vaccination rates.

Driven in part by the highly contagious delta variant, the surge in coronavirus infections has squeezed hospitals, such as those in the South, that were already struggling to maintain enough staff to deal with the high number of sick patients.

In Alabama, Williamson said patients who require intensive care but are unable to get an ICU bed — of which there are 1,557 statewide — are still getting ICU-level care in a different part of the hospital.

As of Tuesday, only 12% of patients in Alabama hospitals were fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Williamson said. "This could've been prevented if we'd gotten vaccination numbers to higher levels," he added.

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