That’s up from nine pediatric virus patients earlier this month, as COVID hospitalizations have skyrocketed in Alabama in July. Williamson said the rate new patients of all ages are coming in with COVID has him worried.
“That’s what’s the most frightening,” he said. “It’s not the absolute number, it’s the rate of growth both of the cases and of the hospitalizations… We’ve never seen this slope before.”
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Alabama hospitals were treating 1,181 patients for the coronavirus as of Wednesday, according to data from the Alabama Department of Public Health. Williamson said of those, 311 were in the ICU and 109 were on ventilators.
Williamson also said the state’s hospitals are seeing younger patients coming in with COVID.
He said he uses discharge information to get data on the average age of the patients being treated for the virus. That data runs on a slight time delay – it doesn’t show the age of people in the hospital now, but the age of people who leave the hospital. Still, some trends emerge.
“It’s a younger population,” he said. “The percentage of people who are under 35 who are leaving the hospital has gone up. Back in January, it would have been around 6-7%. Now we’re at 16%.”
He also said the average age of COVID patients discharged from Alabama hospitals has dropped from around 64-65 earlier in the pandemic down to 54 years old.
The AHA didn’t have hard data on the percent of hospitalized COVID patients that were unvaccinated, but Williamson said a survey performed around two weeks ago showed the vast majority – more than 90% – were unvaccinated.
Meanwhile, about 11% of Alabama hospital beds are currently available, and 12% of the state’s ICU beds are available, according to Williamson. But bed capacity and equipment – PPE or ventilators – aren’t the concern right now.
“We don’t have a capacity problem in terms of beds, in terms of ‘stuff’ – our problem is going to be staff,” he said. “That’s going to be the great limiting factor as we go forward.”