Category: Health Care
Jerry Drummonds’ only mistake in his Monday trip to the Jefferson County Department of Health was his fashion choice.
The long-sleeved blue checkered shirt he wore just didn’t match the COVID-19 vaccine he was getting.
“I had to take off my shirt because we couldn’t roll it up high enough to get to the meaty part of my shoulder,” the 83-year-old said. “And I don’t have that much meat.”
The Vestavia Hills resident was among hundreds of persons – mostly seniors – who came to a pair of health department venues to get vaccinated for the virus. The vaccine also was administered at Gardendale High School.
Monday was the first day of Stage 1b for vaccine distribution, which allows anyone 75 and older to get the shot. Stage 1a also still is in progress. It allows frontline workers, first responders and persons living in congregate settings, including homeless shelters and group homes, to be vaccinated.
The Jefferson County Department of Health is administering vaccines at its location on Southside and at other varying locations for people who are 75 and older, as well as those who fell into Stage 1a. Read on for information about how to get a vaccine.
UAB Hospital is taking extraordinary steps to continue caring for all of its patients as it deals with an onslaught of COVID-19 cases.
Recovery rooms, normally used for just a few hours after a patient has had a procedure, now are being used for care overnight and sometimes for two nights. For patients who normally would stay a night for observation after a procedure, UAB is using rooms in hotels near the hospital.
An emergency room waiting area has been set aside to hold 10 stretchers with COVID-positive patients needing emergency treatment.
“You have to be very creative and look for safe, appropriate space to take care of patients that, under normal times, you wouldn’t make that choice,” Hospital CEO Anthony Patterson said in a press conference Wednesday. “What happens when you completely run out of space? We haven’t hit that point yet, and I think that’s the one thing that we are all fearful of in terms of increasing numbers of patients coming to the hospital. … Hopefully that will not happen.” Read more.
Dr. Don Williamson, president and CEO of the Alabama Hospital Association, spoke Monday while he was scrolling through a spreadsheet with the latest data from member hospitals. When he got to the section showing how many intensive care unit beds were still available for use, Williamson’s reaction was telling.
“Yesterday we had 118 available ICU beds,” he said. “Today, we have — oh my God! — we have only 5% of available ICU beds, 89. That’s the second-lowest ever.”
That number is a red flag that tells Williamson and other public health officials across the state that the COVID-19 pandemic is reaching a crisis point, and the situation is likely to get worse during the next couple of weeks. Hospitals still are dealing with the influx of patients who contracted the coronavirus over the end of the Thanksgiving period or in early December. The anticipated rush from Christmas and New Year’s is yet to come, and that could place tremendous pressure on a health care system that is already perilously close to a breaking point.
“My greatest problem is to get my head around the reality that what I’m seeing now has nothing to do with Christmas,” Williamson said. “You can predict that roughly 10 to 12 days after somebody gets infected, about 12% of that group is going to be hospitalized. We’re not at 12 days yet back to Christmas. … We won’t deal with that surge until next week.” Read more.
Jefferson County officials Tuesday took care to make sure all of the Cares Act money in their charge gets spent before the Dec. 30 deadline. The County Commission prepared to reallocate money entities couldn’t spend. Read more.
The newly expanded Magic City Wellness Center is one of several providers working to increase access to gender-affirming medical care. Read more.
Doctors estimate that worldwide, hundreds of thousands of women cannot get pregnant because they either do not have a uterus or they have one that does not function properly. For some, uterine transplantation provides an option to bear children. UAB Hospital announced last week it would begin offering this procedure, making it the first program in the Southeast and the only institution in the nation to offer uterus transplants outside of a clinical trial. Read more.
As Dr. Mark Wilson prepared to release advice in July that middle schools and high schools in Birmingham should not open for in-person learning this fall, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its position and issued the opposite recommendation.
Wilson, health officer for Jefferson County, stuck to his at-home schooling decision, but now without support from what had long been regarded as the nation’s most esteemed public health authority.
Not only that, he said some of the vexed parents even cited the CDC in attacking his stand. It felt like the limb he was out on had been sawed off at the trunk.
“That guidance gave me one of the worst weeks of my life,” Wilson recalled in an interview with Stateline.
The agency’s revised advice came on the heels of President Donald Trump’s vigorous call for a full, face-to-face school reopening. But it conflicted with what Wilson and other public health officials knew were disturbing results from a credible South Korean study, which, contrary to popular belief, found that older children were a greater risk for transmitting the virus than younger children. That made reopening middle and high schools more problematic.
Since the pandemic began, a string of messages from the Trump administration, many lacking scientific evidence, have confounded the work of state and local public health authorities who have the already challenging job of convincing people to abide by restrictions that many find not only onerous but also economically punishing. Read more.
COVID-19 positivity rates and the number of hospitalizations are declining here, but Jefferson County and UAB health officials warn safety precautions must remain in place.
“Face coverings have made a difference,” said Dr. Mark Wilson, Jefferson County Health Officer.
He said mandatory facial coverings could be in place through the end of the year in an effort to combat the rise of COVID cases and to reduce the number of expected influenza cases. He urged everyone over the age of six months to get a flu shot as of Sept. 1.
“I don’t know what the state will do, but here in Jefferson County I plan to push for the wearing of face coverings through the end of the year,” Wilson said. Read more.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Friday announced that up to $50 million in federal grants will be allocated to the state’s nursing homes to help respond to COVID-19. That’s welcome news for the state’s long-term care centers, as researchers recently found that one fourth of such facilities have less than a week’s worth of the kind of masks needed to protect workers from contracting coronavirus. Read more.