Pandemic Death Rate Continues to Rise in West Alabama
Tuscaloosa County recorded its second death from the deadly corona virus Monday. There have now been 15 fatalities from the virus in the 11 West Alabama Counties. The Alabama Department of Public Health COVID19 Dashboard showed 310 statewide deaths Tuesday morning. 11 patients have died from COVID19 at DCH Regional Medical Center, all but two were from surrounding counties.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, or IHME, currently projects Alabama’s death rate to hit 2,300 by August. That would correspond with what many fear could be the time of a resurgence of the virus as the state's economy continues to reopen.
There have been 862 positive cases diagnosed in West Alabama. Statewide the number continues to rise, moving toward 8,200 as of Tuesday morning. DCH Regional Medical Center is currently treating 29 patients for the virus with 12 testing positive and being treated in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Seven DCH virus patients are currently on a ventilator.
What is concerning healthcare professionals battling the virus is the continued increase of 200-plus cases per day. Critics claim the increase is a result of more testing being done. State Health Officer Scott Harris points out those cases would have been there had there been no testing. "That is what concerns me," Harris told media, " how many cases are out there that we don't know about because the person is asymptomatic?" A person can carry the virus, show no symptoms yet spread it to others.
Harris says the state still lacks sufficient tests to identify and isolate enough carriers to slow the spread. He is especially concerned about rural counties where residents have no public transit and many lack sufficient primary healthcare.
He said, ideally, people need to be able to get tested and get the results while visiting their doctor or an urgent care clinic. Test kits often run out and samples must be sent to private labs, delaying results.
“We're not very close,” Harris said. “Point-of-care testing is available in some places, but the point-of-care devices have only been available in this country for less than a month.” Harris claims the newness of the virus is requiring inventiveness.
Scientist are not only working on a vaccine but healthcare industrialists are attempt to find ways to provide more masks, testing kits, ventilators and face shields in large numbers. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) recently wrote to Gov. Ivey encouraging her to form a task force to place Alabama at the front in healthcare product production. "We did it with the automobile industry, we can do it with the healthcare industry," Jones recently told an online press conference.
Since there have been new cases of the virus each day since Gov. Ivey's "Safer at Home" order loosened restrictions and allowed retail businesses to reopen. Dr. Harris told media Monday that has made testing and social distancing that much more important.