Alabama ran out of intensive-care unit beds at midweek, according to hospital officials who say they’re entering “uncharted territory” as the delta variant rips through states with poor COVID-19 vaccination rates.
Patients will be admitted to the hospital but might have to wait in emergency room areas or be transferred to other facilities as needed.
“We’ve never been here before. We are truly now in uncharted territory in terms of our ICU bed capacity,” Alabama Hospital Association President Don Williamson told WSFA 12 News.
The state is the first to run out of ICU beds but isn’t alone in its plight. Neighboring Mississippi set up two field hospitals within the last week, while parts of Texas built overflow tents at their hospitals.
Nationally, the delta-driven surge hasn’t produced the numbers Americans saw at the winter peak of the pandemic — at least not yet.
Total hospitalizations in recent days have averaged 84,000 compared to 137,000 in early January, though hard-hit states have crept back to levels near or above what they saw at the national apex.
“We are clearly at the worst part of the pandemic that we’ve seen, throughout, and it’s continuing to worsen,” Mississippi State Health Officer Thomas Dobbs said at a Wednesday press briefing.
He said nearly 90% of hospitalizations are in unvaccinated persons and 86% of deaths are in people who haven’t gotten the shots. The 14% of deaths in vaccinated persons tend to be older residents — in their mid-70s on average — or those with weaker immune systems.
“There is a significant spillover effect from the massive amount of transmission that’s occurring in the population that is then impacting an older group of individuals, primarily,” Dr. Dobbs said.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has pointed squarely at unvaccinated people as the drivers of the surge. Her state has the worst vaccination rate alongside Mississippi, each at 36% of their populations fully immunized compared to a national rate of 51% and New England states that have exceeded 65%.
“In the state I love dearly, Covid is surging, schools are closing, there are no ICU beds, but folks still refuse to get vaccinated & they want to fight — literally — about whether their kids have to wear a damn mask,” tweeted former Sen. Doug Jones, Alabama Democrat. “Please stop the madness. Get vaccinated.”