Local hospitalizations are spiking as frontline healthcare workers continue to get their first doses of COVID-19 vaccines and Christmas gatherings near, posing a threat of a greater surge.
Southeast Health reported 67 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized at Southeast Health – a record high – as of Tuesday morning, while Flowers Hospital reported having 42 COVID-19 patients.
Meanwhile, healthcare workers in Dothan and around the world continue to receive their first dose of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, which recently gained the Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization.
Flowers Hospital confirmed Tuesday it was expecting its initial allocation of 1,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine later in the day or Wednesday.
“Because our hospital will receive a limited supply of the vaccine initially, the first groups of employees to receive vaccination will be healthcare personnel who provide direct care to the most vulnerable populations and in their line of work have a high likelihood of contact with COVID-positive patients as well as those who are integral to healthcare structure and the response to the pandemic,” said Emily Darnell, Flower Hospital marketing director.
According to Alabama Department of Health guidelines, 50% of the initial allocation is reserved for Flowers employees and a portion of the initial allocation will be reserved for other healthcare providers outside of Flowers Hospital who are at high risk of infection. More information will be sent to those groups as soon as possible, Darnell stated.
Southeast Health Director of Public Relations Mark Stewart said nurses in the hospital’s COVID-19 vaccine clinic have administered more than 700 doses since last week.
“We have to go through half of the first order before the ADPH will evaluate and let us know when we can order more and that will be based on what they can get,” Stewart said on Tuesday.
Stewart said nurses are administering the vaccine to around 11 individuals at a time. They must wait 15 minutes before leaving to ensure there are no immediate adverse effects.
Beginning Monday, CVS Health Pharmacy teams will begin administering initial doses of COVID-19 vaccines in 240 skilled nursing and assisted living facilities in Alabama.
“Our army of healthcare professionals – pharmacists, nurses, and licensed pharmacy technicians – is very familiar with this patient population,” a press release stated. “This expertise along with our national scale and local presence, which we have used to administer flu vaccinations and to mobilize COVID-19 testing solutions in communities across the country, will be applied to this national effort to safely and efficiently distribute COVID-19 vaccines.”
CVS also has an agreement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to eventually provide vaccines to the general public across the country in 2021 with more details to be shared at a later date.
The ADPH follows the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) guidance regarding administration of COVID-19 vaccine. In this first phase of vaccination, the critical infrastructure workforce is identified as frontline health workers, including clinical and nonclinical workers in hospitals, nursing homes or those providing in-home or mental health care directly, and emergency medical service (EMS) providers.
Various phase levels are based on risk exposure and Alabama is currently in Phase 1a, according to an ADPH press release. The population that falls into this first phase is more than 300,000 Alabamians.
“The overriding issue at present is the scarcity of vaccine,” State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said. “We realize that there are many people at increased risk of exposure to the virus who are not yet able to receive immunization. As the supply of vaccine remains limited, we continue to urge the public to practice the measures needed to help reduce the transmission of COVID-19.”
As southeast hospitals see new record-highs of COVID-19 inpatients, new daily cases do not seem to be slowing.
In the last week, eight Wiregrass counties logged a combined 888 new cases, which breaks down to an average of 127 cases per day. That figure is more than double the daily rate Wiregrass counties saw one week ago and considerably higher than the rate of new infections during the last peak at the end of July, when new cases were averaging around 80 a day.
In the last week, Barbour County added 27 more cases to total 840 since March; Coffee has 2,329 total cases (+186); Covington has 1,497 (+115); Dale has 2,120 (+144); Geneva has 1,029 (+59); Henry has 669 (+60); Houston has 3,657 (+256); and Pike has 1,214 (+41).
The number of COVID-19 related deaths has slowly crept up as well as Wiregrass counties have racked up a cumulative 200 confirmed COVID-related deaths since the pandemic started and another 55 probable deaths.
On Tuesday, Southeast Health debuted its Oasis Room, a “quiet and calming space for hospital staff to decompress and reenergize” and grieve. The room was made possible by donors of the Southeast Health Foundation’s Philanthropic Women’s Society.
The room includes two chairs, a mood lamp, and Amazon Alexa to stream music.
“Their thoughtful gift will aid caregiver resiliency and for that, we are grateful,” a Southeast Health Facebook post read.
The ADPH urges residents to exercise caution by postponing travel and avoiding gatherings during the holidays and advised people to continue to do the following:
· Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds.
· Social distance by staying six feet away from others.
· Avoid people who are sick.
· Stay home if you can; work remotely if possible.
· Cover your mouth and nose with a face covering when around others.
· Cover coughs and sneezes.
· Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
· Monitor your health.
Once additional quantities of vaccine are available, ADPH will provide information about how the public can go about getting vaccinated.