Category: Government

UAB in International Trial of Inhaled Nitric Oxide for Ventilated COVID-19 Patients

UAB doctors hope a low-risk, FDA-approved drug to be tested at UAB Hospital will serve as a “rescue therapy” for ventilated patients with lungs seriously damaged by the coronavirus, COVID-19.

UAB is among the first in the nation to offer inhaled nitric oxide as a potential viable treatment in its intensive care unit for the sickest of these patients, officials said in a telephone news conference today.

Nitric oxide is a colorless gas that is known to improve oxygen supply to injured tissues. It not only is used to help failing lungs, but it also exhibited antiviral effects against the SARS coronavirus during that 2003 epidemic. Since SARS is similar to the current pandemic infection, Dr. Pankaj Arora of UAB said hopes are that the same will be true with COVID-19.

Arora, assistant professor in UAB’s division of cardiovascular disease, will lead the UAB trial, part of an eight-center international effort that includes Harvard University/Massachusetts General Hospital and LSU Medical Center-Shreveport, three other centers in this country and two international centers. Read more.

Blacks Make Up Disproportionate Percentage of COVID-19 Deaths

Blacks make up a minority of the population of Alabama, but they account for more than half the number of people who have died of COVID-19 in the state, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.

The department on Wednesday reported that 61 people who tested positive for the disease have died, and 48 of the deaths were confirmed to be the result of COVID-19. Officials were verifying whether the remaining 13 died from the coronavirus.

The figures covered reports through Tuesday, April 7.

The racial breakdown of the 48 who were confirmed to have died of the virus showed that 52.1% were black; 37.5% were white; 7.7% were Asian; and the rest were of unknown race.
Read more.

Virus Tsunami Could Swamp Alabama’s Health Care, Particularly in Rural Areas


• 17 privately run hospitals have closed in Alabama since 2010, seven in rural areas.
• 88% of rural hospitals operate in the red.
• 36 counties have only one hospital, seven have no hospitals.

The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t hit its peak in Alabama yet, and when it does, it could be a major disaster for the state’s health care infrastruc-ture, according to Dr. Donald Williamson.

“I’m seeing this whole thing as a tsunami,” he said. “Right now, for most of the state, we’re in that pre-tsunami period where the water is actually being pulled out to sea and everything looks quiet. I think you’re already beginning to see the tip of the tsunami in Birmingham and other places, and I think the tsunami will over the next several weeks and months wash over the state, causing great devastation to our health care sys-tem.”

As president and CEO of the Alabama Hospital Association, Williamson has watched Alabama’s medical infrastructure deteriorate over the past 10 years. Read more.

Where to Get Tested for COVID-19

The opening of new COVID-19 testing sites this week brings the number of places where tests are available in the Birmingham area to more than two dozen.

Testing is available for people who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19, who have had significant exposure to someone with the disease or whose employer requires screening.

See a list of screening sites and how to contact each.
Read more.

COVID-19 Count for Alabama Reaches 2,089, with 55 Deaths

Alabama has recorded 55 deaths of people who tested positive for COVID-19, the state Department of Public Health, reported today. Updated figures show that 39 of those deaths have been officially attributed to the disease, with the remaining 16 still under investigation.

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state stood at 2,089.

Jefferson County led  with 449 confirmed cases of the disease. The county has recorded 11 deaths of patients who tested positive, with five of those confirmed to be from COVID-19.
Read more.

In Alabama, Renewed Talk of Expanding Medicaid

The spread of the new coronavirus, the resulting strain on hospitals and the possible infusion of federal relief money is rekindling talks of expanding the state’s Medicaid program
For 10 years Alabama has resisted expanding its Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act, mostly on fiscal grounds. Some estimates show expanding the program to include 360,000 more residents would cost the state about $170 million in the first year alone, with increasing costs going forward.
However, now the state could be in receipt of funds to lighten that bill. The coronavirus economic relief package known as the CARES Act contained $150 billion to help states and local governments recover from the financial impact of the outbreak and specifically included provisions to help states shore up their Medicaid programs. Analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows Alabama coffers could receive as much as $1.7 billion, though much of that is likely to be earmarked toward specific programs. 
Read more.

State Health Officer Talks Coronavirus Prep, Potential Surge. ‘We Really Need For People to Stay Home’

Alabama Public Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris spoke with Alabama Daily News on Saturday about the state’s response to the coronavirus, its expected peak and the recent state stay-home order.

Harris is an infectious disease specialist who now finds himself leading Alabama’s efforts to combat the most deadly pandemic in a century. We spoke at length about his work over the past several weeks, how the Department of Public Health is dealing with the unique challenges of COVID-19 and what led to the recent decision to order Alabamians to stay home except for essential needs. Read the Q&A

231 Hospitalized in Alabama with COVID-19, Death Toll at 31

The Alabama Department of Public Health reported Sunday that 231 people were hospitalized statewide with COVID-19 diagnoses.

Deaths in the state from the disease COVID-19 stood at 31, and authorities are investigating 14 other deaths of people who had been diagnosed with the virus.

In total, the state has had 1,676 confirmed cases of the virus. Jefferson County accounted for 397 cases, with four deaths from the disease and five more involving people who were diagnosed with it.
Read more.

Getting Government Services During Pandemic Requires Patience, Persistence

Alabama residents who need to renew their driver’s license during the coronavirus shutdown will have to do it online.
Teenagers who have waited 16 or more years to get their first license will have to wait longer.
These are just two of the ways the growing pandemic is making it tougher for people to obtain government services. With state and local governments forced to weigh public health against public services, the scale sometimes tilts toward health. This is true for services ranging from automobile tag renewals to court trials to in-person access to public meetings.
Read more.

Alabama’s COVID-19 Death Toll Up to 26

The Alabama Department of Public Health this morning raised the number of deaths in the state from COVID-19 to 26, up by five. Authorities are investigating 15 other deaths of people who had been diagnosed with the virus.
The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 climbed today to 1,543, growing by more than 50% since Wednesday morning. One week ago, the state had 604 confirmed cases and three deaths.
Read more.